You know that look of confusion when someone is just
not speakin’ your language”?

Don’t be this guy…


Or something like this might happen…

Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig were found guilty of murder.

In 1952, the two men were in the middle of performing a robbery when they were confronted by police. An officer challenged Christopher Craig to put down the revolver he was carrying. As Craig hesitated, Bentley cried out “Give it to him Chris!” – at that, Craig fired and the officer was killed. At the trial Bentley claimed he meant “Give the man the gun!”, but the jury inclined to the prosecutors view and and found both men guilty. Six months later Bentley was hanged.

All based on five little words.

And such is the importance of the words we use.

Clean Language Interviewing has an answer

Keep your stuff out. Gather their stuff in.

You don’t need top-down or complicated psychological models to get the best from those you interview.

Learn to speak your clients’ language by actually speaking their language

Join us as we investigate how the wording of interview questions can unintentionally bias answers, how “leading” questions cast doubt on the authenticity of the data collected, and how you can avoid this by asking “clean” questions.

You may be wondering just what Clean language Interviewing is and how it might help you in your role as a:

  • manager
  • cause analyst
  • auditor
  • quality assurance professional
  • human performance specialist
  • corrective actions specialist
  • safety professional
  • or other professional where gathering good information is important to your success.

Or perhaps you are seeking solutions as an organization that performs root cause investigations, uses a learning team structure, and/or is striving to become a high reliability organization.

Let’s take a look at some of the basics of Clean Language Interviewing and see if we can answer some of your questions here.

Clean Language Interviewing, often shortened to Clean Interviewing or CLI, aims to maximize the reliability of information collected from your interviewee.

It is the new kid on the block, so to speak, and has been thoroughly researched for its effectiveness and veracity.

Clean Interviewing is based on linguistics, self-organizing systems theory, and cognitive science. We attend to the often subtle influence our words have on others.

Quality interviewing is about more than just open and closed questions. It is about knowing how to keep your assumptions, presuppositions, and personal metaphor out of your interviewee’s answers and thinking.

As a linguistic model Clean Interviewing looks closely at the words we use when asking a questions and how those words will potentially affect the quality of the interviewee’s answer – either immediately or as a latent adoption unnoticed by both interviewer and interviewee.

Inadvertently influencing those you are interviewing, otherwise called ‘leading the witness’ will happen even to most well intentioned interviewer.

No other interviewing model attends to the specificity of the words of the interviewee, or uses questions that have been cleaned of as much content as is possible, as Clean Language Interviewing.

There are many interview models out there that are based on physiological theories and interrogation techniques. These may create a sense of rapport, mimic trust, and/or illicit disclosure. They also often create heavy cognitive load and will leave trace influence of the interviewer as evidenced in transcript review.

Clean Language Interviewing is being used in academics, qualitative research, critical incident interviewing, law enforcement interviews, corporate auditing, human performance, human resource, high reliability, corrective actions development, and other professions where the information you gather is critical to your processes and work development.

Learning this skillful way of listening and asking a specialized set of questions will change what you pay attention to and how you target the information you are meant to be gathering.

Furthermore, there has been a systematic cleanness ratingprotocol developed that provides a quantitative measure of adherence to interview guidelines and, by extension, the trustworthiness of the information collected.

You can read more here: Wikipedia on Clean Language Interviewing  This is a remarkably sourced article with 49 notes and 48 high quality references.

You can find more about Clean Language Interviewing in my Blog and Resources pages.

We would love to help you add this methodology to your skill set, to your work group, or even to provide organizational wide training at different needs levels and areas of focus.

If your work requires you to conduct interviews – from a coaching intake interview to a critical incident interview – we can help you master your trade. Again, we invite you to join us.



Recognize The Need

Gathering authentic information is challenging. Learn how your questions affect your interviews and what to do to keep your stuff out and their stuff in. Stop wrinkling your brows.

Check The Dates

Clear your calendar and make arrangements to have the time free.

Choose from two sessions below.

Learn From The Best

Attend either of our virtual workshops and learn from the best in a relaxed atmosphere gaining knowledge through practice with expert guidance.


Clean Language Interviewing | $995

 Virtually w/Sharon Small

Spring: 4 Sessions, 4 Hours Each

Spring 2022 – Dates TBA

Email for more information

Clean Language Interviewing | $995

Virtually w/Sharon Small

Autumn: 4 Sessions, 4 Hours Each

Autumn 2022 – Dates TBA

Email for more information

You Know This Will Rock!

Clean Interviewing is needed across all areas at our company.

Philip C.

Why Clean Interviewing?

“Because asking questions is so common, interviewers can be lulled into believing interviewing is unproblematic and requires little specialist knowledge.”

Paul Tosey, PhD (National Teaching Fellow and former Head of PhD Programmes for Surrey Business School)

The words we use impact others – it is a linguistic reality of spoken language.

Clean, as we use it here, is a metaphor for a way of interacting with others that allows you to clearly express your intention while at the same time giving the other person maximum opportunity to answer or respond without the imposition of your metaphors and assumptions.

“…interviewing witnesses is probably the hardest task facing an investigator”

Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety


Why Clean Interviewing?

Most interviewing methods teach one to use ‘open questions’. This is a good start and simply does not go far enough. Open ended questions can be leading; closed questions, such as “Is there anything else?”, can leave a client open to answer with more lateral. It is not only about open and closed, it is also about inadvertently adding in our own biases through interpretation of presuppositions, working off of assumptions, using metaphorical language, or using other peoples top down models to interpret what is happening within an interview process. Taking notice of your assumptions, biases, presuppositions, and metaphorical content will put you well on your way to clean-ing up your interviews and conversations with out having to be clever or tricky. By adding clean questions, you will gain rapport, help put your interviewee at ease, and make it easier for your interviewee to answer your questions. You will also know where you are in your data collection process and stay accurate in your timeline. In essence you will be come a better modeler of information. As you know, each person is different and interviewing may be the most important skill in cause evaluations and data collection. When poor information is gathered, less than accurate or desirable results will be be the result. It is our aim to provide you with a verifiable interview methodology where you can not only collect authentic data, but also check the rate of interviewer influence on that data. This is a game changer.

Where did it come from?
Clean Interviewing derived from Clean Language, the language model of therapeutic processes devised by David Grove which has since found application in education, business, organisational change, health and academic research.

Grove devised the principles of Clean Language in the 1980s and continued to develop a specific question set until his death in 2008. Although Owen first suggested applying Clean Language to phenomenological research in 1996, it was not until 2010 that the first systematic research into the veracity of the method was conducted and published in the British Journal of Management.

Who is this training for?

Are you any of these?

  • Academic researcher
  • Research student
  • Marketing reseacher
  • Auditor
  • Cause analyst
  • Corrective actions specialist
  • Consultant
  • HR Professional
  • Manager
  • Business analyst
  • Quality improvement associate
  • Specification and requirements gatherer

If so, then this training could be just the thing that elevates your communication and/or interview techniques allowing you to gather more authentic and honest information.

What will I learn in Clean Language Interview training?

The aim of this workshop is for you to learn and integrate the principles of Clean Interviewing and to develop your ability to design and frame clean questions during practice interviews.

You will learn how to interview using Clean Language questions and principle so your interviewees are given maximum opportunity to provide reliable information – uncontaminated by unintentional presuppositions, assumptions, and personal metaphors.

You will also learn a new process for validating the ‘cleanness’ of an interview and increasing the robustness of your methodology. This is the only interview method that can be validated on observable criteria outside of relative and subjective interpretation.

How big are the groups for these trainings?

All of our courses are small group format (between 6 and 15 people) allowing for a high-touch experience that is intended to let everyone participate fully and learn at their best.

The small group size allows time for developmental feedback towards your learning, exercises and application with others, and self-reflection.

You will begin right away using the primary Clean Questions while learning more about how it works in an interactive and fun learning environment.

Each program is supported with:

  • Certified Clean Facilitators that actively use Clean Interviewing in their professions

  • High quality academic source materials for reference and further study if desired

  • An opportunity to interview on real contexts, not artificial scenario’s designed by trainers

  • Quarterly follow-up webinars available for continued professional development

How is it taught?

We will work in groups of two or three to apply the model or skill to yourself and others in real time with real outcomes. In these small groups, you’ll have the opportunity to be an observer, a client, and a facilitator giving you multiple perspectives from which to learn.
This format allows you to take away new learnings quickly and use them right away in your own work and personal life.

Clean Language Interviewing will be demonstrated in multiple context and you will be given ample opportunity to practice in interviewer-interviewee activities with high-quality feedback, debriefing and plenty of time for questions and discussion.

The workshop will be experiential, innovative and practical. Asking and being asked Clean Language questions will not only take your interview skills to a new level, they can lead to more general professional development — strategic rather than prescriptive thinking is encouraged.


What kind of material do we practice with?

We do our best to only use real situations and interview-worthy material from your work and life.

Are there any prerequisites?

Although there is no prerequisite to attend Clean Interviewing, it is highly recommended that you have some familiarity with Clean Language questions and principles to maximize the value and applicability of this training.

This can be gained through:

    Is there a Clean Interviewer certification?

    Not currently and a skills based assessment is in the works. We are happy to keep you in the development loop as it comes to fruition. Currently, we provide a Certificate of Participation that includes seat time hours.

    Have more questions?

    Join us for one of our interactive Zoom meetings. Click HERE to register.

    Bring Clean Language Interviewing to your peeps

    Sponsor a training at your location and treat your employees to a powerful methodology to elicit accurate, uncontaminated information.

    Email Us

    These organizations have benefitted from Clean Language.


    Find out more at our FREE webinar “What is ‘Clean’ Interviewing Anyway?”

    Invest just 40 minutes and you will experience the powerful methodology that we teach at our annual conference.
    We hold these webinars on the first Tuesday of each month.

    Click below for dates and registration.

    USA-EU 9am
    (0900 Pacific Time)

    USA-Asia 6pm
    (1800 Pacific Time)


    Sharon Small

    Sharon Small

    CEO Clean Language Institute

    Sharon Small is an independent researcher and internationally recognized clean language trainer and assessor. She has dedicated her mission to helping others gather good information so they can do great work.
    With over 13 years of experience working in the nuclear industry, a degree in psychology and background in Jungian Archetypal psychology, Shamanism and NLP, Sharon brings a broad set of skills and experiences to her training rooms.

    James Lawley

    James Lawley

    The Developing Company

    James is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and a leading authority on the use of self-originated metaphor for personal and professional development.

    James lives in the UK with his wife and co-developer, Penny Tompkins. He comes to the US annually where he and Penny join Sharon in California to provide advanced training in Clean Language, Symbolic Modeling and Clean Interviewing.


    James Ramirez

    James Ramirez

    Corrective Actions Program Manager

    James has been supporting Clean Language training in the US since 2010 and has been using Clean questions and models in his work for over 7 years. He is deeply familiar with the use of Clean Interviewing in both a managerial context and within cause evaluation interviews and corrective action development. James brings over 40 years of corporate experience to our training rooms along with current clean language use in real everyday contexts.
    Penny Tompkins

    Penny Tompkins

    The Developing Company

    Penny is co-author of the book Metaphors in Mind written with her husband, James Lawley. Together, they live in London and run The Developing Company with the aim to facilitate people to see the repeating patterns in their lives, to recognize how these patterns can change, and to trust in the subsequent unfolding of their spirit.

    We are fortunate to have her with us during our annual January trainings. Penny’s experience and professionalism raise the room.