It was all over an Oreo

It was all over an Oreo

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.

Chatting with Penny & James

Chatting with Penny & James

I talked with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley about their focus for their 3-day Enhancing and Integrating Your Symbolic Modeling Skills at Clean Convergence 2019.

In 2019 Penny & James will be presenting a program titled A Clean Approach to Working with Physical Symptoms and the Ecology of Systems.

“Metaphor is the natural language of physical symptoms and the process of healing. When clients explore the inherent logic of their metaphors and the system of which they are a part, they can discover ways to improve their well-being. Also, we can apply the metaphor of ‘healing’ from working with an individual as a system, to working with a family, team or an organization as a system of individuals. At the training will explore guiding principles, ethical issues, intentions behind problems, paying attention to the ecology of relationships – and more. You will learn through demonstrations and debriefs, guided facilitation, discussion and small group activities (with personal coaching).”

Clean Convergence is an annual program hosted each January by the Clean Language Institute and me, Sharon Small. We offer three different workshops as well as a 3-day self-modeling retreat for personal or professional development.

Penny and James bring their A-Game to each Clean Convergence at which they train. Here are some links to quick video testimonials from some of their fans from down under.

Roz is a professional mediator, media coach, and educator. She speaks briefly about how clean has helped her in both her personal and professional life


Greg is a professional coaching trainer. Greg speaks on the value he has found in his work with Penny Tomkins & James Lawley


Leona is a private therapist and coach. Leona speaks about her time with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley’s an a course on physical symptoms.


Sandy Hall is client director for HumanKind works in organizational development. Sandy recommends anyone in organizational development to work with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley.


 Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop

 Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop

Putting Clean Language to work in Business: Like a kid in a sweet shop

Mike Blukket is a student of Penny Tompkins & James Lawley. He is also a coach and member of the British Psychological Society. He had the opportunity to facilitate multi-award winning culinary artist Heston Blumenthal to tap into his personal creativity. We’d like to share some of this journey with you.

You can read the full article online

“I have found our work to explore my metaphoric sweet shop really helpful on a number of levels. At first it helped me regain my creativity and now that creativity has itself fed back into using metaphor to enhancing our customers’ dining experience.” Heston Blumenthal O.B.E.



Would you like to become more proficient in working with metaphor?

Clean Convergence consists of 4 programs with 11 days of instruction, personal development and skills development. Workbooks and support materials are provided, as are delicious home made lunches built to your dietary needs. Our venue will be a home style environment with walks and nature available for your down times. The San Luis Obispo area of California is part of the American Riviera (Mediterranean climate) with access to beaches, wineries, horse back riding, hikes and scenic cycling routes.

Gleanings From Twyla

Gleanings From Twyla

“You can learn a lot by watching”
Yogi Berra

Here is a fun observation exercise adapted from Twiyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit.

My intention of sharing this adapted exercise with you is not as much about stimulating creativity as much as attending to how you do observing and what difference that makes to the meanings you make of what you see and hear…and, perhaps,even how creative you are already.

The Exercise

This weekend go someplace where you can do some people watching. Bring something to write on/with.

Choose someone or people to pay attention to and then write down everything they do until you get to 20 items.

The boy gets on the skate board, write it down. His mother says something to him. write it down. She moves her hands side to side, write it down. He looks to the right, write it down…and so on.

It shouldnt take you long to collect 20 items of observation.

Now as you read your list, notice how your imagination works creating an interpretation, a story about what you observed. This is creativity at work.

Was the mother concerned that her son would fall, maybe run into other people walking near where he was riding? Was the boy on the skate board happy and having fun, out for a day off of school, on vacation? How did you interpret what you observed?

What difference, if any, did you notice between when you were attending to only writing down observations and when you moved to attending to interpretations of what you saw?

How are they the same?

How are they different?

What else did you notice?

Now do it again and only write down those parts of your observation you find interesting. You may find it takes a bit longer to get your 20 items.

And notice what happens to your observations when you apply that filter find interesting” and how that effects both the kinds of things you notice and how you interpret them.

How was the first observation exercise the same or different to the second one?

Did you enjoy one more than the other?

Did you learn more about yourself and or other people doing one more than the other?

Is there anything else you noticed?

I would love to hear your experience with this exercise. To share, simply post a comment below.