q What's 'Clean' about Clean Language? - Clean Change Company

What’s ‘Clean’ about Clean Language?


The originator of Clean Language, David Grove, was briefly involved in NLP before he went off to become a clinical psychologist and originally, his meaning of ‘clean’ was presumably the same as the NLP one – the intention to use only the client’s words etc.

As he developed his unique style of working with trauma victims, he focussed his attention on
1. How to make his questions ever ‘cleaner’, minimising the presuppositions and metaphors in the questions
2. Asking his questions about with the metaphors the person used spontaneously in their language.

As a result of a modelling project by NLPers Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, this was formalised into the 12-question system now generally referred to as Clean Language (cap C, cap L). For the full story, you need their book, Metaphors in Mind. Be aware that this is a pretty solid read with a therapy focus!

Basically, it turned out that the ‘cleaner’ the questions were, the more effective they were at eliciting metaphors. Metaphors casually used in language tend to be quite fleeting and out of conscious awareness, so jumping on them with big size nines doesn’t help.

But because they are out of conscious awareness, and therefore presumably generated by ‘the unconscious’ they provide vital information about what the person is really thinking, unconsciously.

Of course, no question can be completely clean. Charles Faulkner gave a very good talk on the presuppositions which remain in the standard Clean Language questions at the Clean Conference.

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