I remember the look on my daughters face. 

She had just come to me “Mom, if you twist the cookies just like this, she carefully twisted the two flat cookies that sandwiched the frosting in-between in opposite directions, you can eat the middle!” 

That’s when I did it.

Instead of delighting in her discovery and asking her a question “What else can you do with an Oreo sweetie?”, all 30 years of Oreo eating experience culminated in an enthusiastic burst and telling her all the ways she could crunch, munch, dip, crumble, peel, lick, and eat an Oreo.

Thats when the face I remember happened. I had taken all the joy of discovery from her Oreo adventure.

I know, it was only a cookie. But it was her cookie, her growing up discovery, her adventure and what I had done was, in essence, appropriated her adventure and overlapped it with my own experiences. I stole it from her.

She never shared a new way of eating an oreo again.

The thing is this kind of behavior in any domain takes something from those we are talking to.

New ideas, a creative adventures, problem solving, as soon as we give unsolicited advice or stories about how we did it, what we might do, our previous experience we rob others of something essential that comes with personal discovery.

Its more than “Don’t give me advice honey, just listen”. Hear that as “I am going to tell you something and even if it’s in your domain of experience, or it’s painful, or frustrating … I want to retain ownership of it.”

This skill of letting others own and keep their experiences, their joy of solving, and adventure of discovery is something Clean Language has given me.

It sounds small … but please don’t underestimate the power of asking rather than telling.

Would you like to know more?

Check out this post from 2015, Ask, Don’t Tell ,for a more comprehensive look at using Clean Questions affirmatively.