'Clean Language works with the intelligence between the lines". David Grove
Clean language is not easy to explain. Its an enquiry methodology that uses very stripped down questions which minimise the influence or assumptions of the questioner. The questions encourage the person who is questioned to go inside of themselves to find the answer and Clean Language is the best tool I know to help people make sense of what it is that they want, need or know.
Fascinatingly, Clean Language also helps people to discover what they didn't know they knew - my friend and international Clean Language trainer Judy Rees calls this their "unknown knowns".
Having trained with Judy on her fantastic online video conference based courses and been an active part of a very vibrant Clean Language Community, I really wanted to bring Clean Language into the sector that is closest to my heart - The NHS.
Judy worked with colleagues at NHS England teaching them core skills and then together we recently collaborated on some health projects including one with NHS Blood and Transplant and another ongoing one is with the NHS Organisational Development practitioner community in the West Midlands on behalf of NHS England.
My enthusiasm for Clean Language and a real passion to share and spread Clean Language within Health and wider Social Care, mean I am still on my own learning journey which is currently widening to Systemic Modelling, developed by Caitlin Walker, which is about creating the conditions for teams to collaborate. Although still relatively inexperienced compared to Judy, I have been amazed at what can happen when you share even the core few questions with colleagues and ask them to start using them and to notice the difference it makes.
Judy and I teamed up and have just completed a series of four 90 minute videos going through the core elements of using Clean Language. Led primarily by Judy and with me co facilitating in the background, these videos give you the opportunity to see people who work in Health and Social care learning the skills and to practice elements of the learning yourself.
As yet these videos are raw and unedited and so still have the bloops and blunders in them. I invite you to view the videos, let me know which bits you find most valuable, which bits don't add value. I would also love to hear how you are using your learning as you watch the videos - you can send feedback via the email form on this site.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Once edited the videos will be made available at a small cost and for the moment they are free to view - enjoy!
I read a great blog posting today by Dr Peter Fuda called, 'slowing down your movie - reflection in action'.
This caused me to reflect on an ouch moment from very recently - something that really conflicted with how I see myself.
Reflection on action is a review after the event and I do this a lot. Post coaching reflection for example is a useful thing to do. It gives you an outside of the moment perspective and you can focus - zoom in and out of your actions, what led to them, reflect on why you chose that particular action, your motive or reasoning for doing so etc.
Coaching supervision focusses a lot on post action review. Sometimes this is facilitated by taking you back to the moment and stepping back inside the picture as though it is happening right now, sometimes by stepping out of the picture and seeing it in front of you as a kind of replay all of which creates different lenses or perspectives. And this is all great stuff.
What is harder and potentially more uncomfortable is to reflect in action.
This is catching yourself in the moment and noticing what you are saying and doing, what is the root emotion, how is that impacting on you and on the people around you. What is the trigger for this.
This is the source of self awareness.
Very recently I found myself saying to another that the way somebody spoke about others behind their back really conflicted with my values.
Stop and think about that for a moment!
I caught myself, pulled myself back, and changed my behaviour.
What an uncomfortable realisation that what I was seeing and so disliked, I was actually also doing myself in that moment.
By pulling myself back, I can recognise the behaviour and the root and think of a healthier way to deal with what is creating the discomfort.
And firstly that is about starting with me and being the example I want to see in the world.
Why not try reflecting in action today and see what you notice in yourself.
Do focus on what you admire and value in yourself as well as the more uncomfortable aspects of yourself that might emerge.
And importantly, be kind to yourself in that noticing - we are after all, only human....
When my marriage was falling apart suddenly, catastrophically and terminally many years ago, I did something very out of character for me. I took up embroidery.
Nothing fancy, just small preprinted cross stitch kits. And I sewed and sewed, because when I was sewing my mind quietened and I had to focus on getting the next stitch in the right place, in the right colour and watching the picture slowly build up.
I never was a great embroiderer and to be honest the pictures weren't great - turn them over and they looked like a mass of mess and thread, but it got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. I have never since been able to pick up embroidery. It was mindless and that is exactly what I needed right then.
In this blog I want to explore mindfulness and mindlessness and how it helps with spaghetti brain - the sort in the caption - where your head is a mess of thoughts and worries and catastrophisation, all interwoven and tangled and with loads of loose ends.
There is a paper just out on the separation of mindfulness from its original roots in Buddhism and how the concept is becoming so mainstream. Certainly, when I model inspiring people by hearing them talk about their habits and practices on podcasts and in books, overwhelmingly the people I admire build meditatative practices into their day - listen to almost any Tim Ferris interview for his online show, and you will soon see the pattern.
Part of the reason mindfulness - a meditative practice - can seem unattainable to many is because of the exact reason people need it - because they are too busy.
On my fridge is a lovely fridge magnet that I picked up from Moseley Buddhist centre when I was doing a wonderful mindfulness course. It says 'Don't just do something, sit there'.
Sitting there feels counterintuitive;
'I need to do something about this. I need to concentrate. I need to think about this some more. I need to make a list, wrestle with it, tame it'!
And so we go up into our head, thinking ourselves round in circles, exhausting ourselves with activity that doesn't seems to achieve much - mindless activity of the unhelpful kind.
Mindless activity for me can be positive. Mindless activity of the positive sort is a natural meditative state - something we all go into.
More examples of my own mindless activity are:
By being in your body, in your boots - being present - you open your awareness to possibility rather than by trying to close it down to options.
Energy follows attention. If you focus down your thinking, all energy is focussed on that specific issue. A much more productive option is to open possibility right up by letting go of the need to have a solution right now and just allowing what comes up to come up. Havent you had your best ideas whilst soaking in the bath, or whilst dozing off to sleep....?
If you are interested in being more present, I really recommend the ULab course run by MIT, its a free Massive Open On Line course and presencing - being present and sensing - is a huge part of it. Pm me for details of this or the research paper I mentioned earlier.
If anxiety is an issue for you and you feel you need support with this, I have recently successfully coached people with significant anxiety issues. Please do get in touch via the contact form on my website.....
As I think about my last half a dozen coaching clients, they have a pattern.
Each of them is at an intersection in their lives, at a transition point and wondering what next?
Unspoken questions are how can I do something that takes me nearer to the life I want to live? How can I do something I love? How can I balance work with my life in a way that feels harmonious?
My own life has been in a similar transition since last November when I did a lot of work on my values and what I and my partner wanted from life over the coming five to ten years. I made a decision to reduce my working days as an employee to three, to freelance two days a week and to negotiate some work with a previous employer and I love this new way of being. It means as well as making a difference in the day job, I can be as creative as I like and attend development courses on my freelance days and also have the flexibility and freedom to visit my Son and his family who are newly moved to Devon, every month.
For example, of the clients I mentioned
One was a returner to the labour market returning to work after an artistic/caring break of a few years, who had lost her confidence and wondered what she could now offer. Together we helped her secure well paid work that fitted well with her values and with flexible hours so that she could still paint and create.
Another was someone who felt out of step with her work. She had previously been promoted into a role and the service had changed to the point that she felt it conflicted with her values and drained her to the point of exhaustion. Together we revisited her values and identified where and why she felt disconnected from her role and considered her options. This person decided to take a career sabattical and to consider new ways of working over the summer. She handed in her notice the same week.
Another client was facing a restructuring of her service and potential redundancy. She had a fairly unique role and wondered what she could do next. Once again we did work on identifying what really mattered to her and over a short series of sessions this person was able to secure a new and stimulating role in a new organisation.
A senior manager came to me for confidence building. She had made an incredible difference in her role and yet had imposter syndrome. She had identified a job she really wanted to do in a new organisation - a sideways move - that would allow her to build up a service in a way that didn't consume her whole life and in an area with much less travel time. We spent two sessions together and the interview was so successful they offered her the job before she left the building.
One coachee had been frustrated in her present role as it didn't have any opportunities for progression. She identified a job at a higher level on secondment to another organisation and it was a stretch, taking her into a new area of training from that she had been used to delivering. We focussed our sessions on building her confidence, identifying transferable skills, working on her interview skills and in particular her presentation for the interview. This meant that at interview she was focussed and on point in talking about the changes she would make if she were to get the role and how the skills and experience she brought to the role would enable that. She was offered the job and is doing well.
Over my thirty something years of working with people looking for work and with employers, I have worked with so many kinds of people from executives to the long term unemployed. From people seeking employment in specific sectors such as airports, the car assembly industry to single parents returning to the labour market. From people who are ex offenders and or homeless through to young adults looking to gain employment.
A favourite area of mine to work with is confidence building in relation to supporting people career wise.
As well as recent examples above, people still occasionally tap me on the shoulder and say, do you remember you helped me to get that job at.....well I am still there!
So why might you want a coach to help you? You have experience in interviews and are good at applications. You get feedback on interviews you did not succeed in but perhaps things are still not happening.
Or maybe you are in a great job but have a nagging feeling that it is not the right career for you. Or perhaps you long for something that brings more balance to your life?
So, what difference can coaching make?
Using a variety of different approaches, and depending on what you want to have happen in our session, some things that could happen in a coaching session are:
Can I afford coaching?
The question could easily be, how can I not afford to?
With the cost of an outfit for an interview being upwards of £150.00, then the cost of travel and parking, not to mention the hours (days?) completing the application form and then preparing for your interview, (if you cost that in terms of your hourly rate at work), the cost is very significant. Not to mention the emotional aspects - the hopes, dreams, plans and aspirations you have riding on that career change, new role, downshift or promotion.
And if you aren't successful this will have been a useful, but costly, piece of feedback that can take you closer to your goal.
For a potential outlay of £30.00 for a single session, you could make a significant saving by being prepared, for the right job, in the right way and at the right time.
Typically and by agreement, a coachee would spend one to three sessions with me on career aspirations and this may be online via Zoom or Skype or possibly face to face depending on your location.
So, if you want to make a fresh start this autumn, do get in touch via the enquiries form on my website.
Coaching is on offer at a special rate of £30 per session until the end of August and you can have a free 'chemistry meeting' to find out if coaching (and coaching with me) is the right next step for you and this will include a taster of my style.
I look forward to working with you and supporting you to do what you love!
Whenever I pick Richard up from work in our car, I arrive and then walk round to the passenger seat so that he can drive back. And whenever we go on holiday (or anywhere) together, I let him drive.
From time to time when then Richard says he is tired from all the driving, I rear up on him and say ' I didnt drive because you are always picking faults with my driving' or 'you never let me drive long distances'!
This is classic drama triangle.
In the Karpmann drama triangle the victim (me!) is looking for a rescuer (Richard)
The victim puts out little signals to hook the rescuer. 'I am too tired to drive', I don't feel comfortable driving on the motorway', I have never driven that far', 'I am a nervous driver'. And, as Richard takes to the wheel he rescues.
This works only as long as it works, and both parties are happy in role. But often in the triangle, there is a switch and a feeling of discomfort - a 'what just happened there' moment!
In the example above the victim turns into the persecutor and the rescuer is now victim. Nice.
So how do you know when you are victim? Or rescuer?
You are probably victim if you have an unspoken agreement or are allowing someone else to do things for you. Some examples could be
Doing the household bill paying
Putting the bins out
Doing the garden
Cleaning the house
Doing the driving for you etc
You are probably rescuer if you are helping somebody and they haven't specifically asked you to or you haven't specifically agreed to help
Doing the household bill paying
putting the bins out
doing the garden
cleaning the house
doing the driving
Solving a problem for them etc
Another example is of somebody asking you for help with something at work - 'Can you help me fix the photocopier, its broken and I don't undertand how it works'? This is the victim putting out pleas for help to hook a passing rescuer.
'Here, let me sort that out for you' (rescuer).
And if you cant sort it out, a response of this kind, 'well I suppose I will have to report it as broken then, and I've got loads of work to do' in a huffy tone that can leave you feeling as though its your fault and you've failed (The switch to persecutor).
Another game is the 'yes but' game, and again its out of conscious awareness.
A friend tells you about how she feels mistreated by her boss (looking to hook a rescuer). You say, 'why don't you look for something else'. 'Yes but the money is good and its only round the corner from home'.
'Why don't you complain to HR'...'Yes but I don't want to create any trouble for myself'. 'Why don't you have a word with the boss and tell her how you are feeling'...and then the switch, 'its no good talking to you about this, you just don't understand....' (now victim is persecutor and you are victim).
So what can you do to stop yourself being in victim?
Notice it. Notice you are passing over responsibility and take it back. Say 'I will drive today'. And if there is a criticism of your nervous driving say, 'thank you, I know you care about me and you want me to be safe, and that's why you are pointing these things out. I would prefer it if you didn't criticise my driving as it doesn't help my confidence'.
Or 'I have tried following these instructions on the photocopier to fix this fault and before I report it as broken, I am wondering if you can see anything that I may have missed'?
And if you are persecutor, take back responsibility. Ask yourself 'what is my part In all of this (and you always have a part), where has this come from? ,what do I really want here...and ask for it in an adult way.
In summary then, a simple rule of thumb is that if you are doing more than 50% of the work you are probably rescuing. So you have the choice to offer help when help is asked for, or to offer advice when advice is asked for but beware of wading in and offering help that is unasked for unless you want to be in drama.
"The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace" Carlos Santana.
It has been really interesting watching postings on my Facebook feed in relation to the EU referendum and the subsequent Brexit.
Feelings are running really high, and in some cases are leading to angry, judging and blaming arguments and accusations. Some friends are falling out and un-friending each other. Perhaps it will be a long time till they reconnect, maybe they never will.
I want to explore some of what happens when we find ourselves in a volatile conversation like this, maybe with somebody at work, in the pub or especially somebody in our family. It could be over anything that the person feels really strongly about.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
We listen through our own filters - our values, our beliefs, what we feel is important. We get caught up in a thought about how we feel in response to what we are hearing and what we want to say to respond.
We interrupt, talk over them, try to reason or counter argue our point. This has the effect of creating frustration, not feeling heard. A person not feeling heard will simply get louder and keep repeating the message that is so important to them.
We are on different sides of the argument. Each side has a position and is defending that position. This creates a distance between the two parties and an argument or debate from position can never be won.
If we can listen with an open heart and an open mind and from a place of letting go of needing to know, we can begin to understand what is important to the other, in a way that helps them to feel deeply heard and acknowledged.
“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.”
― Alexandre Dumas-fils
We generalise. For example "British football fans are hooligans"! All Brexit voters are racist.
Generalisations are lazy language and can be inflammatory. If we are in the category being generalised about, we will push back, hard.
If you hear a generalisation ask the person to be more specific.
Two simple questions you might ask are;
'in what way are (for example) British football fans hooligans?'
'Are there any British football fans who aren't hooligans'?
This gets you and the speaker, more information about what it is that they mean, I helps the person to feel heard and understood, helps them clarify their thinking and it keeps you both out of position..
We challenge the person and not their view.
On facebook I have seen people say things like, 'that is rubbish, you are a moron!'
This is attacking behaviour at the level of identity and will certainly cause deep hurt and counter attack.
Challenge the viewpoint or the behaviour, not the person themselves.
Questions you might ask are
'I am keen to get a better understanding about why you feel so strongly about this. Please can you explain'?
'What are the key things that really matter to you here'?
'What is it about this that is so important to you'?
And in response, you might learn something and get a new perspective and you may not. You might then say, 'I see it differently, can I share what really matters to me about this....'
Or I agree with the part you just said about x. Where I differ is y. This is healthy debate and is to be welcomed.
Instead of saying 'that's rubbish', say instead, 'I don't agree with your point of view'
Instead of saying 'you are a moron for saying that', instead say 'I don't feel that comment is helpful'
We don't Own our stuff
We use 'you' language not 'I' language. For example 'you are wrong' instead of 'I don't believe you are right'.
'You made me really angry when you said that', instead of 'I felt really angry when you said that'.
We don't accept responsibility when we get it wrong.
If you are the person that says 'you are a moron', you might then say, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that, it wasnt fair. What I meant to say was that I don't agree with what you just said'.
It is much easier to immediately take ownership and retract the comment than it is to repair a damaged relationship later.
Some examples of when people have worked this out well on Facebook are;
' I don't want to fall out with you over this, can we agree to differ'?
'I am happy to take any of my friends that voted differently to me out for a beer so that I can explain why it was important to me to vote the way I did'.
An extreme example of where it hasn't gone well is an example of a person threatening to disclose secrets on line about people whose view she feels strongly about. That threatens trust and without trust there can never be real resolution and understanding.
There has never been a more important time than now to build bridges and to have conversations based on tolerance, and understanding. And for me, out of that comes compassion and a sense of shared humanity and love.
If you want to find out how to gain confidence in having sensitive conversations, please ask about my courses, How to Have a Courageous Conversation, Assertiveness and Enhancing your Communication Skills with NLP, or why not sign up for a coaching session with me
The perfect way is without difficulty
Over the last few months, I have been having a crisis of self belief and self confidence and this is a pattern for me that comes and goes. Its like a monkey on my shoulder.
It has come about for a reason, (also a pattern for me), that is a healthier one. I am incredibly curious about life, about people and about experiences and this last year I have thrown myself into many new situations involving travel, stretch and meeting many different kinds of people.
I changed job and chunked up to working at a regional and national level instead of just a local level. I went freelance part time. I joined Ulab, a movement to make a difference to self, to organisations and to society. I started an online international coaching circle. I completed a life changing NLP trainer programme and have done other in depth courses in Clean Language and Applied emotional intelligence.
.. and yet I still am prone to imposter syndrome. I can feel less clever, less articulate, less qualified, less proficient or whatever, and on occasions I have noticed (and occasionally others have noticed) me withdrawing into myself rather than contributing, for fear of looking daft.
When I notice myself in this particular state, here are some strategies I have found work for me. I hope that in sharing some of them, they will be useful to you too.
Recognising patterns in myself has been helpful. Keeping a journal and writing in it on a daily basis is incredibly helpful in recognising patterns. Once you notice a pattern you can 'pattern interrupt' and do something different - anything - to get a different result. I make an effort to be kind to myself, give myself positive feedback. I say STOP to myself when the negative inner voice starts up. I allow my body to tell me what it needs in terms of relaxation, a walk, some nice food. And I talk to somebody I love and who loves me about what it is that is on my mind..
Just do it. This week when I had to do couple of things that were new to me and where didn't have a clear objective, I just had a go, literally put it out there and took feedback. and the feedback was great, really positive with a few helpful suggestions that made it even better. My tip - don't wait till you have it right or perfect or have all the answers or fully understand it - just put it out there and be clear that whatever it is is a work in progress and that you would like feedback and constructive critique. This builds trust and relationships too as you bring an honesty, openness and a vulnerability that encourages the same in others.
Facts not Mindreads. Do you think people are thinking something about what you are doing (and its usually not so positive)? This is a mind read!
Instead why not ask them? Be honest and be specific about what it is that you want feedback on. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Asking for feedback is incredibly helpful in challenging and testing your own assumptions.
When I told my boss about how I was feeling he was flabbergasted and gave me some wonderful feedback that gave me a different perspective. He understands the areas I feel weaker on and has been incredibly generous in sharing tips and strategies and also how he has often felt the same and what he does to get himself in the best state.
Get in your best state. Recall a time when you felt confident, happy and creative (or whatever resources you need in your situation) and go back to that time as though it is happening right now. What are you seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting and smelling? What are people saying to you, what is the environment like, what are the expressions on peoples faces as they interact with you, how are you interacting with them?
As you are really at the peak of that experience, anchor that. To anchor simply make a replicable gesture such as touching your thumb and little finger together, or touching your elbow - something discrete that you wont do day to day and as the intensity of the feeling subsides, release your anchor. Repeat this process three to five times.
Now future pace. Imagine a time in the future where you will want to be confident, happy and creative (or whatever your resources are). Take yourself to that specific time as though it is happening now. Touch your anchor and see yourself in that picture, feeling confident, happy and creative. Again notice how you are engaging with people and they with you. What are you seeing, feeling, hearing. Are there any tastes or smell?
Release your anchor as the intensity of the experience subsides.
Now imagine a time when you are in a situation that isn't going as you would like it to. Touch your anchor and notice how you are, how people are reacting to you, how your body feels. What are you saying to yourself? What are you hearing from others? Are there any tastes or smells, and again, as the experience reduces in intensity, let go of your anchor.
How does that now feel?
Do keep topping up your anchor by reimagining your experience and touching your anchor. Notice the difference that this makes to how you feel when you use your anchor.
You can also use pictures, smells or objects as anchors. I use two bracelets with messages on as anchors and I wear one or both when I need to. One says 'believe in yourself' and the other, 'do what makes you happy''.
Recently I have been really antsy. For me that means not being able to settle to things, starting and not finishing them, poor sleep and a constant restlessness. When I get like this, I feel like a caged tiger and I feel compelled to get outside and walk.
Even though I am a town dweller, there are some lovely walks nearby - a country park and a bike trail that passes three lakes. I find the walking really helps to self sooth and I can do one of several things to change my state. If you find yourself feeling similar, why not try one of these...?
I walk mindfully, simply listening to birdsong and noticing how many different kinds of song there are. Or I might simply focus on my feet and the feel and sound of them as I walk on the path. Sometimes I will focus on the patterns of light and wind on the water. This has the effect of putting my attention outside of myself and my breathing slows and the tension in my body disappears. Being outside in the light and the sun is incredibly important to me.
Other times, and I can also do this whilst walking, I seek the sensation of what I am feeling. Where is it located, does it have a size, a shape, a colour. I think of that sensation, just notice it, what else comes up? What is it telling me?
I am non judgemental and non self censoring and just listen to what emerges. What is the gift that the sensation brings? What is the message it has for me? Once you understand the root of the sensation, thank it. Ask it what it wants to have happen next. And then notice, has the sensation changed? Does it now have a different size, shape location. How do you feel that is different? What do you think that is different?
Other times I might do a clean language selfie and this involves simply asking yourself a few questions. You can film this on your webcam or just do it.
Below is a link to a clip of me doing a clean language selfie. Not a very glamorous video - I have a cold and there is washing in the background - but its real! It was when I felt stuck in project managing a big leadership event at work and it was the first time I had ever organised anything like this.
It lasts 8 minutes and bear with it to see the transformation in my words, tone and body language. Why not give it a go yourself?
Please feel free to comment or ask questions
About the author
I love learning new stuff, I get a real thrill from making new connections with and between things.