On Symbolic Modeling Lite

On Symbolic Modeling Lite

This is a transcript for a 19-minute video chat with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley on August 28, 2017, about Penny & James original three-day training format “Symbolic Modeling Lite”.

This is the same training I, Sharon, will be presenting January 7-9, 2019 in California. It will be our 4th year of Clean Convergence – a four-part Clean Language training program given yearly that includes Symbolic Modeling Lite, an advanced training course, a self-development retreat, and Clean Language Interviewing training.

Symbolic Modeling Lite is designed to give a broad stroke overview of the entire Symbolic Modeling process and basics of Clean language that provide a scaffolding for practical application of and continued learning in this process.

All grammatical anomalies simply reflect the conversational nature of this document. (2500 words, approximately 10-12 minutes reading time)

If you are a “real paper” person, click HERE for a pdf that you can print and read.

Would you like to watch the video? You can do that here: Youtube Link

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Sharon: Hi Penny, Hi James

Penny & James: Hi Sharon

Sharon: It’s good to see you this morning. Thank you. I’m so glad you were able to make time.
Today we were just going to have a conversation about the Symbolic Modeling Lite format and what we’ve found with that being a very useful for people, grounding them in the Symbolic Modeling, getting them used the process, giving them a bigger picture.

I’m really curious, because the structure of Symbolic Modeling Lite is a little different to how I began teaching Symbolic Modeling. I’m curious how you come up with that particular three-day format, the Symbolic Modeling Lite?

Penny: Well we spent years teaching the process and we put the emphasis on various pieces of Symbolic Modeling and what we discovered was that people needed a framework, what we call a scaffolding, in order to, when they’re just starting out, to have a model that they could be thinking about when they are asking Clean Language questions of their clients and working in metaphor, because metaphor is a different way of working with most individuals, when you stay in that experience the client is having and the metaphor can go in any direction.

Of course, clean language questions direct attention. And we discovered that this framework, the Symbolic Modeling Lite, could be a framework that would, in a way, help direct the facilitators attention on what to pay attention to in the clients landscape. So that we found a lot of them really appreciated that rather than trying to select what was important without having something to guide them.

Sharon: Some kind of larger frame to know where they were / are in the process.

Penny: Yes, and we like the metaphor of scaffolding, because scaffolding is something you use and then you eventually take down.

So, people once they know how to do a session with Symbolic Modeling Lite, then they can start to look at other ways that they may find useful themselves in relation to the type of information the client is giving.

Sharon: Oh, nice, OK, So, giving them a framework that lets them have a bit more creativity and lateral with their client once they’re working with them.

Penny: Yes, yes, but I would say that to become proficient at Symbolic Modeling Lite is the place to start, because the whole Symbolic Modeling Lite … it’s a practical overview of the whole process.
So that in three days people can see, either what they are facilitating or what others are facilitating, how the whole process can go through the client’s information and learn that in a three day period. There is a whole-ness to it.

Sharon: For me, I think of a map. When I was teaching my introductory classes a little differently, concentrating on going deep on early skills, I experienced the participants having a bit of lostness.

They had the knowledge of what was next, but didn’t have the experience of it.
And this particular format, the Symbolic Modeling Lite format, these three days, seems to really give the participants a nice experience of what they are aiming towards [as facilitators].

James: It’s very hard when you start if you don’t know where you’re going.

While every session is unique, this Symbolic Modeling Lite gives the facilitator an idea of the kind of journey they are going to go on, so they know, generally speaking, the kind of, where they are in the journey, not just the end point. Where they are, the key four or five stages that there are in a traditional coaching session for example.

Sharon: And I’m wondering how have you found this format fitting in with continued learning for people who really want to become proficient at Symbolic Modeling?

James: Well, it’s like a lot of things … you can look at the Symbolic Modeling Lite process and it looks fairly simple, and it is. And then you look at it again and you realize there’s a little bit more too it, and you look at it again … and you realize there’s a bit more to it.

And you know we have been revisiting this process over and over and we still discover these interesting depths to it.And it is the way we start all of our sessions more or less. Surely all of our coaching sessions, we start with this process, we stick to it, and then as the session unfolds, so then the experience we have comes in.

It provides, to use a different metaphor, a foundation on which to add all the other skills, so you have a solid base on which to add other skills. And there are plenty of other advanced skills to get.

There are plenty wonderful subtle ways to notice what’s happening with the client, and model their landscape, and drop in those questions that really give them something to think about, but, it really helps to have that basics.

And the other time it’s really useful is when it … you know everybody now and then gets lost. We’ve been doing this 25-years, but still occasionally we kind of go “I don’t know what’s happening”. Whenever that happens we go right back to the basics. Right back to the absolute rock basics and we start again from that.

Sharon: It kind of relieves the need for clever. I sometimes tease that Symbolic Modeling is the cure for being clever.

And I agree that that iteration from ‘Oh, this is simple’ … I remember when I first started I thought … I watched the video, I read the book and I was like “Oh, I can do that!” And then I got about four questions in with a real human being and I’m just like grateful that my mind was clear enough to say “Oh this is really more, this is more than what I just watched.”

Penny: One thing that I really like about the three-day Symbolic Modeling Lite workshop is for a lot of people new, learning the process, is it helps them see what happens when you have a process that is desired outcome focused.

It isn’t that we avoid problems, we simple don’t address them until we use the Symbolic Modeling Lite framework to facilitate the client to have a fully embodied desired outcome landscape, a desired outcome metaphor. And by putting their attention on that and the embodiment of that through the metaphor, changes their relationship to their original problems and issues.

And to see learners, new learners, discover that … the difference that can make, is quite delightful. And how to work with problems from that state of “This is really what I want” and it’s like [the problem becomes] whatever.

Sharon: It’s a whole different animal, isn’t it?

Penny: Yes, to use a metaphor.

Sharon: Another metaphor, right? This is so funny, because we’re talking about a metaphorical process and in order to describe it, It’s, we’ve, been popping up – oh wait, another one! – popping up metaphors left and right.

James: David Grove once said that Clean Language questions are simple, because people are complex enough. And I think when we were designing the Symbolic Modeling Lite process, that was really present in the back of our minds. How could we make a process that’s as simple as possible that allows the person we’re working with to be as complex as they what, but we don’t have to get lost in their complexity?

And, that doesn’t mean we direct the process, because at the same time one of the challenges we had one designing this was how do we design a process to work with a complex adaptive system called a human being, that does all sorts of stuff, that all do their own, their unique, their metaphors are unique. In 25 years we’ve never heard two metaphor landscapes the same.

All sorts of wonderful things happen, surprising and unexpected things happen – how do you design a process that allows you to work in that emergent way? And it’s got to be simple in its structure, but flexible enough to respond to all those things that happen. Because those things happening are not the problem, those things happening is the process working!

Sharon: What comes to mind too, is there’s a lot of talk about flexibility. When you said flexibility, what happened in my mind is I thought about that there are a lot of innovations happening with the use of clean questions – all sort of, I call them mini-models, easy to apply, kind of mini-models. But a lot of these, almost every one that I’m aware, of has come from someone who has the grounding and the training in Symbolic Modeling.

This is like the ‘ground Zero’ of using this kind of methodology and thinking process to do something different.

Penny: I think that is absolutely accurate. And not only have those innovators have the Clean Language questions, they know them in every cell in their body and they have had experience of working with metaphor, but, also, they have learned more about modeling, and modeling is a key piece.

Once you are experienced modeling a client’s landscape, that modeling can generalize and you can take it to other areas. And I think that’s where a lot of the new processes are being taken into business, education, everything else. I think that is where a lot of that emerges from.

Sharon: Yes, modeling, the skill of modeling itself and the principles of clean and then having the questions and the thinking behind it to navigate what you come across, up to.
…So awesome.

James: And to respond to what’s happening in the moment, because, you know, it’s all happening right now. And one of the principles behind a Clean Approach which is, whatever the client presents and in whatever way they present it, that’s enough. We don’t need anything else. There’s plenty of material to work with. You just need to work with what you are given.

And that’s an interesting kind of discipline for the facilitator to simply stay with what’s presented by the client and stay within the framework and the logic of that.

And what the Clean Language questions combined with Symbolic Modeling Lite does is it disciplines the facilitator to do that. And that is a skill in itself. Because we all want to put in our advice and our suggestions and our metaphors and you have to learn to step aside for a while

Sharon: There is one other aspect of the Symbolic Modeling Lite, this particular three day training, that I think is really valuable for people … is that if someone doesn’t want to continue – I have noticed I have professional coaches come in and its given them just enough to begin to apply clean in their practices, work with their clients – And some have gone on to train more and some have found that it’s just enough that they have that framework to continue to learn from and iterate with, rather than leaving [a partial training] half baked, let’s say.

Penny: Having trained it for years and seen many participants, many people learn that, the process, particularly in a coaching environment, if you become proficient in Symbolic Modeling Lite, then especially in coaching, then probably, I’m guessing, perhaps 70% of clients, 80% of clients, that will be all they need and you need.

But as we know, there are clients that have binds, complex problems we call binds and you learn to model them out in metaphor. But here’s the interesting thing, in order to identify a specific bind a client is experiencing, we start with the Symbolic Modeling Lite framework.
And it is out of that the specific problem, the specific binding nature of that landscape emerges. So how you get to that is through those three days.

And then there are things that you can work with those more complex things. But for a lot of coaches that’s all they need for their client base.

Sharon: Well I’ve been really thrilled that you shared your Symbolic Modeling Lite with me and that I’ve been able to begin to use it with participants.

Penny: Well, it’s lovely to see you teaching it as well.

James: And I think the kind things people appreciate on this three-day workshop, in addition to the framework, the overview, is the demonstrations of real sessions using the process – live in the moment where you don’t know what the clients going to bring up, you don’ what the topic is going to be, you just use the process and its real.

And I think that people learn a lot from real demonstrations that are not kind of pre-planned or anything.

Sharon: No made up scenarios, no pretend and ‘put this other persons hat on’.

James: And people get a lot of their own personal development when they’re in the client role on those three days as well.

It’s amazing how much you can get from someone asking you those questions. And how much those metaphors, the metaphors do so much work, but you’ve got to experience it to believe it!

Sharon: It’s a bit like a presenting dream in Jungian Analysis. I have a metaphor that came up in my first training in early 2006 and it’s still alive for me. It’s changes a little and it is still really present and profoundly useful to me even now, years and years later, and that was in one of my first trainings.

Penny &James: Right, great.

Sharon: Well, it’s going to be great to have you guys here in January. This will be our third year, and my third year doing this Symbolic Modeling Lite. I am looking forward to having you here for your advanced programs and the retreat, and James, for Clean Interviewing.

(Note this was recorded in 2017. We are in our fourth year of Clean Convergence)

Penny & James: Yes.

Sharon: And, you know, when I first began teaching it [Symbolic Modeling Lite 3-Day program] I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough – and I am just so glad I went ahead and did it, because what I found is just what you are saying … this scaffolding, this framework, this broader view, this map, so participants know where they are and really give people the opportunity to choose whether they want to go further and deeper into the process or if this is just enough for what they want to have happen.

Penny: Well, great. California here we come!

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley will be in California with me for Clean Convergence 2019 from January 7th through January 20, 2019.

Find out more here: https://cleanlanguagetraining.com/symbolic-modeling-lite/


Symptoms & Systems: A conversation with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley

Symptoms & Systems: A conversation with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley

This last weekend I had a chance to have a conversation with Penny Tompkins and James Lawley on their upcoming workshop – Symptoms & Systems: A Clean Approach – happening January 11-13, 2019 here in California.

The following is our conversation broken into three segments.

Segment 1 is about how working with symptoms and working with systems is more similar than we might suspect on first blush.

Segment 2 is musings about metaphor and the power they pack.

Segment 3 is our reasons we think learning live, face-to-face, eye-ball to eye-ball is the stickiest way to learn Clean (or any hands on skill).

As well as the video and audio provided on this post … We would like to invite you to join us for a Q&A call via Zoom meeting on October 20, 2018 – Yes, that is this coming Saturday!

You can register here for Ask Us Anything October 20, 2018

If you have a bit of Clean under your belt or have been wondering about working with metaphors with individuals or even groups, join us for this 60 minute ‘Clean Party’ where you can ask us anything about Clean Convergence 2019, the workshops that are on offer, and even any questions you have about Clean Language full stop.

Now … on to the conversation:

Segment 1 – It’s Not Two Things (7.5 minutes)

In this seven and a half minute segment, Penny and James talk about the workshop they are offering in California, January 2019 – Symptoms & Systems: A Clean Approach.

Now don’t worry. It’s not all just dry information about the workshop. It’s really quite a deep conversation about clean language, working in metaphor, and how this kind of thinking and questioning can help you in your work and life. 

So enjoy segment one and then head on down the page for segment 2

Register here for Ask Us Anything October 20, 2018:

Or check out Clean Convergence 2019 here: https://cleanlanguagetraining.com/clean-convergence-2019-sharon-small/

Segment 2 – Musing on Metaphor  (10.5 minutes)

This segment is about ten and a half minutes. James and Penny go quite deeply into working with metaphor and the difference that makes for people and organizations.

So enjoy the next ten and a half minutes and we’ll see you soon for Segment three.

Register here for Ask Us Anything October 20, 2018:

Or check out Clean Convergence 2019 here: https://cleanlanguagetraining.com/clean-convergence-2019-sharon-small/

Segment 3 – Like a Dog on a Bone  (5.5 minutes)

This short segment is about learning life and why one would want to travel halfway across the world to learn face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek and eyeball-to-eyeball with real live trainers not just in clean language, but in any skill you’re learning.

Register Here for Ask Us Anything October 20, 2018:

Or check out Clean Convergence 2019 here: https://cleanlanguagetraining.com/clean-convergence-2019-sharon-small/

Clean Language Meets the 5 Second Rule

Clean Language Meets the 5 Second Rule

I’ve been cleaning out my shed.

It’s at the very back of our property and holds books, treasures, and lots of junk. You know how it goes…ten years in the same place. For me small, and not so small, things accumulate and I do the ole “I’ll get around to it…one day” routine.

Here it was – a beautiful day for working outside and I was procrastinating.

I was online looking for something I could listen to while I worked, something motivational – I am cleaning a shed after all. I got side tracked on Youtube by “greatest speeches ever given” and somehow came across a short talk by a woman named Mel Robbins.

Mel has coined a pattern-interrupt strategy she calls The 5 Second Rule. In brief, when you have an inspiration, a thought, or something you want to get done, you 5-4-3-2-1 yourself to action. It is not so dissimilar to snapping a rubber band on your wrist or taking a deep breath and exhaling hard. The important thing is that, once the pattern redirect is done, you MOVE. You get up, you sit down, you do something with your body that begins a trajectory towards what you want to have happen.

What caught my attention wasn’t the strategy of habit redirect, but that Mel came by this idea through metaphor.

In Clean Language we love metaphor. Metaphor is a primary part of a client’s language we attend to. Metaphor in its leanest explanation is simply describing one thing in terms of another.

The thing is, the more personal something is, the more complex, the more apt we are to use metaphor to describe it. And this is what Mel did.

Her marriage was having a melt down. She and her husband had lost thousands in a business venture gone bad. She was depressed, unhappy, and not doing what she knew she should. She wanted to get up when the alarm went off, go walking, look for work, and eat better – the small things she knew would help her feel better and make life function more smoothly.

One evening after a trying day she was watching TV and saw a NASA rocket launch. It was then it struck her. Everyday, pushing the snooze button she was like a rocket that was grounded and what she needed to do was to “launch her self out of bed” just like that rocket she saw on TV. For her, it was the 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 LIFT OFF. She internalized the metaphor of a rocket launch and it changed her life.

Metaphors are powerful, idiosyncratic ways we make sense of the world.

Life can be a “bowl of cherries” or a “sh*t show”  You can imagine how different the experiences of these two people might be.

OK, back to the shed.

I didn’t 5-4-3-2-1 my work, a rocket launch isn’t a metaphor that fits my temperament. I like to wind along like a slow and steady river. So that’s what I did that lovely afternoon. Walking back and forth the length of my ‘back 40’ until I had filled the the pick-up truck with things to take to the local second hand shop.

We use metaphors all the time to describe how things are, what we want from life, and even how we want our dreams to be. Sometimes they are apparent like Mel’s rocket launch, and sometimes they are more subtle, embedded so deeply in our speech we do not even hear them.

Clean Questions are designed to help elicit the metaphors we use in everyday life. What this does is give you more agency and decision making skill in your life. Not everyone has an epiphany moment like Mel. Sometimes we have it and it fades due to time or distraction.

Unless we know what we would like to have happen changing gears, redirecting habits, and making changes might be effort waisted.

Clean Language comes into play because is it is designed to help you define your Desired Outcome. Not just any desired outcome, but yours.

Desired outcomes (DO) are not the same as goals, they are dynamic reference points. As you work toward a desired outcome you adjust your trajectory as you learn more, change a bit, and try on where you are headed.

Desired outcomes begin with the question: What would you like to have happen?

Is there something you would like to have happen and can’t quite seem to make that link between wanting and doing?

Something at work? A promotion, a job change, an artistic endeavor, a love aspiration, a life tangle you can’t seem to over come?

Join me January 13-15, 2019 at Clean Convergence 2019 for the Self-Modeling Retreat

We are joined with the co-developers of Symbolic Modeling, Penny Tompkins & James Lawley, for three days facilitation toward creative solutions designed by you, for you.

Start where you are and let us help you facilitate the conditions of change that need to happen for you to get where you would like to be.


PS. Here is something you CAN try at home

This morning or sometime in the next few days, sit down for a minute and think of something you would like to have happen in your life or work.

And think about how you need to be to move towards that desired outcome. Do you need to be like a rocket launch, like a smooth and windy river, a mountain, the rock of Gibraltar? It can be anything that fits your fancy. It is only for you. And you don’t have to share it with friends – although they might find it less weird than you think.

And from there you can begin to design movements and strategies that can help you bring your desired outcome from the future to real time.

On Clean Interviewing with James Lawley

On Clean Interviewing with James Lawley

This is a transcript for a 20 minute video chat James Lawley and I did on August 21, 2017. All grammatical anomalies simply reflect the conversational nature of this document. (3000 words, approximately 10-15 minutes reading time)

Our two day Clean Interview training is happening again January 19-20, 2019 near San Luis Obispo in California. Links in this document have been updated to represent this newest training date.

Would you like to listen to this post instead?  Click the Sound Cloud icon below for an audio version 

If you are a “real paper” person, click HERE for a pdf that you can print and read.

Would you like to watch the video? You can do this via Vimeo or Youtube using these links below:

Vimeo Link
Youtube Link

On Clean Interveiwing with James Lawley

Sharon: James it’s really nice to see you again and thank you for meeting with me to talk a bit about Clean Interviewing.

We’re going to be doing that training in January 2018 [Clean Convergence 2019 ] here in California and I thought it might be interesting for people to know a little more about Clean Interviewing; where it comes from, what it is exactly, where it can be applied and the benefits of it compared to other interviewing methods.

You’ve been involved in Clean language and Symbolic Modeling much longer than me, being the creator of Symbolic Modeling, could you tell me, I’m curious, where did Clean Interviewing come from?

James: Well, it came out of the work of David Grove’s therapeutic approach that used Clean Language as its main questioning technique. But primarily David was a psychotherapist, a brilliant psychotherapist, and it was left to other people, myself and Penny Tompkins and other people to take his work and see how it could be applied elsewhere.

And fairly early on, people began, without much conscious thought, applying clean language in interview situations where they were trying to gather information about … like some people who went into a company, they want to find out whats going on in the company and interviewed people. What did they do? They asked them Clean Language questions.

A colleague of ours was trying to find out about the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland, so he interviewed some people from the paramilitaries and the armed forces about their experience. And so a few of us, slowly, but surely go “hello, hang on, there’s something going on here, this could become a thing.”

Sharon: Thats kind of what happened with the root cause interviews. With just my background in Clean and Symbolic Modeling I started applying it. So I was really thrilled when I started to see more formalized thinking about the interviewing, and thats something you have done a lot of work with, formalizing, how do you know if its clean?, how are you calibrating?

James: Ya, that came out of it. And as always when you put that kind of thinking in you start to realizing there is a richness and a depth to this you didn’t appreciate at first. But also what you realize is that you don’t need to go on a full training in Clean Language in order to be able to pick up some of these skills and improve the way anybody interviews.
And what we realize is people could learn them fairly rapidly and that would improve the quality of their interviews very, very quickly.

Sharon: So what exactly is clean interviewing? How would you describe it? How is it different?

James: Ya, definitions … I mean it’s principally based on the notion of ‘what is Clean?’ And the idea of the metaphor of Clean is the person who is asking the questions is aiming to put as little of themselves into the interview as possible.

Now lots of approaches do that, or say they do that. Because of the detail paid to the language, Clean goes much, much further than most, than any other approach that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of transcripts of interviews from different people and the key thing is that the interviewer does not know how much of their own thinking, their own assumptions, their own metaphors they’re bringing in.

They are simply unknowingly doing it and because of that, they can’t not do it, because they don’t know they’re doing it. Whereas with Clean Language, to some degree, it prevents them from doing that.

Sharon: So in a way it’s bringing in an awareness and a more, I’m going to use the word tactical, a more tactical thinking when you’re eliciting information from other people. We had a manager attend our training last year, the Clean Interview training, and she’s gone back and reported to me that it not only changed the way she does her interviews, but it has changed how she elicits information from her everyday workers and helps them find their own solutions. It’s been a real life changer for how she does business.

James: And especially in business, I think, where there is such a pressure to get things done fast. One of the ways that happens therefore is you kind of unwittingly suggest an answer, or the manager has already got an answer in their mind, or the interviewer, so they ask a question that just leads the Interviewee just towards the answer, because that’s obviously the answer, isn’t it?

And those are so subtle language, it can be the structure of the question, it can be presupposition, it can be framing. There are four or five key ways in which interviewers unwittingly bias, or potentially bias the interview towards answers they are already making an assumption about.

And a clean interviewer tends to minimize those. You can’t stop it entirely, but you can take out a huge amount of them. And then the real key is, not so much the interview, but the data you end up with, it’s more robust, authentic because you know it came from them and not from you.

Sharon: A couple of the areas I’ve use the interviewing in is cause evaluation interviews and CAP (corrective action programs) program development. And in those it is so easy for the interviewer, often the interviewer is a specialist and when they are looking at an event, it’s so easy for them to slip their knowledge into the interview without meaning to.

And there are a couple managers that have taken this into the CAP program and noticed the real difference between letting people, having the skill to let the people (involved) devise their own corrective action. Something that will work in their environment, rather than having the corrective actions put their ideas on top of (the people involved). Now you’ve use the techniques in a couple of other areas.

James: Ya, I’ve primarily been involved in using it in a qualitative research method for academics, and been involved in supporting a number of academic programs, one in the Czech Republic, one in Australia, in Britain. So, trying to gather high quality data that meets rigorous academic standards, it’s absolutely ideal for that. And one of the reasons is, that to my knowledge, theres an additional feature called a ‘cleanness rating’ that allows you to go back through the interview and look at just how clean or how leading what the interview and come out with a quantitive method.

There is no other interview method that allows you to go back and look at that and assess the reliability of the data gathered during the interview. That’s a big, big bonus in that area.

Sharon: And even in interviews where there’s not recording capabilities, like with a lot of the businesses I work with, they can’t record, but they can go back and look at their notes. So if your aware of asking clean questions and staying clean in principle, keeping your stuff out, you can still go back and ask “How did I do?”, “Where were areas that I interjected?”, “Where were areas that I changed the frame or even the topic?”.

James: And, I’m not directly involved in some of these areas, but I know people who use it quite extensively these days as a market research tool. And again, if you want to find out what people really think, you better keep your own stuff out of it. It’s also in focus groups, for example gathering information that way. It’s particularly now being used as a specification tool, like in information technology (IT), gathering the users requirements for example.

Again, its similar to what you were saying. Theres a specialist in the IT industry who’s interviewing someone who’s not a computer specialist, and its very easy for specialist to start making all sorts of assumptions.

And one area I am particularly interested in is in the health field. There are no more specialists than doctors. Highly, highly specialized. They have their own language, their own way of thinking. And its, you know we’ve all been interviewed by a doctor. And its really important, I think, that the patients own way of expressing themselves is preserved and not lost.

Sharon: I’m wondering, pretty much what I’ve found is that pretty much any time, any kind of conversation where your eliciting information from someone else, whether it’s a coaching intake, hiring, HR (human resource), I mean, this frame of thinking, this kind of thinking and using these questions can be really useful.

James: And what surprises a lot of people when they first come across this idea is how even changing a single word in a question can have a significant effect on the answer your given. It can get down to that level of influence, unwitting influence. And, as you said, people become much more aware of their language. Instead of just throwing out questions, they take time to ask questions that are formulated to give the other person the maximum opportunity to answer in any way they want. That’s the kind of key benefit of the process.

Sharon: So in a way, better questions and a different kind of listening, lead to more authentic answers which eventually leads to better qualitative data, and results, what ever needs to happen from that data.

James: I think it’s an important point you make that what people report is the more they ask clean language questions the better listener they get, because they actually hear what’s said. It’s a strange kind of by product that comes out of it. But what I reckon one of the reasons is that when you actually get the few basic clean language questions under your belt, you know, easy ..they roll off the tongue quite easily, you’ve got loads of space to actually listen to what the person is saying and actually think about what they’ve just said. But, without formulating what’s the next question going to be or formulate some clever question which can take up too much cognitive space.

Sharon: or go down your pick list.

James: Exactly, thats right. So those interviews where you don’t necessarily know the kind of information you’re going to get, you’re trying to discover that, discovery interviews, Clean Language Interviewing is really tailor made for those kinds of interviews.

There are some interview techniques where, as you say, you’ve got a standard set of questions, well that’s fine, they work in that way. But other ones, where more exploratory, trying to discover information, that’s what their best for.

Sharon: So some of the benefits are becoming a better listener, more accurate listener, lets frame it that way, asking simpler questions that are in context with the information your actually receiving, so you don’t have to be as clever and try to figure out what question’s going to happen next, you just need to know what context your asking in, Keeping your stuff out so, making assumptions, minimizing the influence of your own language, … What other benefits from Clean Interviewing?

James: Well there’s the one I said about if you want to actually go back and check the interviews that you’ve done, meet your own criteria of a high quality interview, a clean interview, you have a method for doing that. Or even having someone else, an independent reviewer do it. The other thing is that I think it is really useful when you want in-depth information.

You know, it seems to me, I’m not an expert, I don’t know about root cause analysis – critical incident interviewing, but what I guess is you want to try to get past the kind of surface things that people say, get them to think deeper about what actually happened and describe it in more detail. And that’s one of the things Clean Language allows you to do, get depth of information.

Sharon: And so earlier before we started recording we were talking about the benefits compared to other interview methods, and I think that what you said bout being able to really qualify, quantify, the cleanness rating is a massive benefit from other interview methods. What other benefits do you see as compared to …

James: Well, it’s interesting what you said about that person who went back and said it changed the way they asked questions generally, not just in an interview. And when I think about the word interview, for me its gotten broader and broader. You know, potentially if I stop someone on the street and ask directions, that’s a kind of interview. I’m trying to get some information out of them. And even in that context its valuable.

What happens, its like many things, the benefits grow over time. At first it seems a bit clunky with the questions, you’re not quite sure what to do. But slowly but surely, the more people practice, the more they relax, the more that relaxed the interviewee, and allows them to sink into their own experience in a very gentle way.

And because of that a level of rapport, an interesting level of rapport is built up without trying. And, also, what happens in some interviews there is a kind of belief that I have to encourage the interviewee with things like ‘good’, “oh ya, right, good good’. Actually, one I don’t think its necessary and two I think its kind of already telling the interviewee that they think some information is better than others. Its already kind of sorting it out. And, Clean Language, if you stick to Clean Language, you don’t need to do any of that either.

And the proportion, if you look at the proportion, of words asked by an interviewer in a Clean Language Interview is very small compared to the amount of words by the interviewee. And it seems to me that the more an interviewee tells you, the more you’re going to get valuable information.

Sharon: Thats a really good point, having that ratio between the interviewers words and the interviewee’s words. And also keeping the questions really simple, so you’re not inadvertently asking two or three questions in one long bit. Often its ‘and, …and, …and …’ and suddenly you have three questions in one which can be really confusing to the interviewee.

James: And similar, like sentence structure. On the course we’re able to show the kind of sentence structures where in the first three words you can tell if it’s a leading question. It doesn’t matter what comes afterwards. And, you know, once you get those clear, those questions that are just slightly pushing the interviewee towards a particular answer or restricting their answers, then you can leave those aside and ask a much more, a question that gives the interviewee more freedom to answer in the way they want.

Sharon: So, you and I are going to be doing an interviewing class, Clean Interviewing class, in January, 2 days, January 17-18th, 2018, here on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo.

[2019 Clean Interveiwing is January 19-20, 2019 – please see link below]

James: Lovely

Sharon: It’s beautiful, ya. And I think whats nice about our combination of working together is we have both been using Clean Interviewing skills and thinking in very diverse areas. Your working with academics, more subjective quality of interviewing, and then I’ve been in business and getting very specific information, like what you were saying, deeper information about what actually happened from their perspective.

James: So, I think its really useful that we bring those two backgrounds. But what I think we share though, is a real desire to make it practical. And thats our primary thing to make it, one, practical, and two make it so people go away with some really useful learnings that they can apply the next day, straight-a-way!

Sharon: And like the interviewer that I was talking about, not just apply it in their interviews, but also apply that kind of thinking and skill across the board.

James: Well I’ve had several people tell me it’s actually changed the way they talk to their children. Because, although it’s not an interview, parents want to find out what their kids are up to. And that leads to all sorts of situations and, you know, the more you stay clean when your asking your children, the more you allow them to answer from themselves. They’re much more likely to give you the truth about their situation, because they aren’t being pushed to give the kind of answers parents wish, so want to hear.

Sharon: I’ve had some personal experience with that. So, I see this interviewing that we’re going to be doing in January as a really nice, not just a nice introduction to interviewing, but a really nice introduction to Clean Language. And for people to get an idea, is this something they might want to learn more of. And also, if they are not in a coaching or therapy field, or doing a lot of in-depth work with clients, the Clean Interviewing is a wonderful way of learning clean and applying it to their context, their work space.

James: Good point.

Sharon: And its beautiful where we are.

James: Sure is, we’re coming all the way over there

Sharon: For those that are watching or reading, James is in the UK and I’m on the Central Coast of California. James Lawley and Penny Tompkins will be coming to California in January to join me for quite an extensive training. But today I really just wanted to have something to share about Clean Interviewing, because I think it is really particular, it’s one of the more vital smaller processes that have come out of Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling, and can just be so useful for people to see – what are they doing. Especially with the cleanness rating you’ve created, being able to really go back and look at something and get clarity on whats happening.

James: Looking forward to it.

Clean Convergence 2019 with Clean Interviewing January 19-20

Clean Convergence 2019