Some Outcomes Using Clean Language

1. Revealing the metaphor

A young student I usually see in a sporting context is part way through his ‘scholarship’ year, and is falling victim to the usual pressures… “because I want to go to X school and/or Y school I really need to get good marks in these scholarship exams. Really need is a euphemism here for must and the stress, pressure and tension associated with all academic activity, revision etc is already building and affecting his natural persona.

I spent a few minutes recently and drew a time line for him as he “walked towards his future” goals of being at the school of his choice. This was a big, clear bold colour picture of his goal. I then asked him about the nature of any barriers along the way. He described the scholarship exams as being the barrier.

PW) And is there anything about this barrier? Cl) It’s like a big, brick wall PW) And is there anything else about this big, brick wall? Cl) It fills my entire pathway and is very thick.

We identified where the wall was in relation to his goal picture and he then said that as he got nearer to the wall, he lost sight of the goal picture.

I then posed him some questions using Clean Language.

PW) What resources do you need to nail down these scholarship exams?

CL) Perseverance.

PW) And do you need anything else with perseverance?

CL) No just perseverance

PW) (slowly) And is there anything about perseverance?

CL) Its like an albatross hanging round my neck, big and heavy

With the metaphor revealed by him so early in the conversation, I chose to open up what the albatross was doing for him.

PW) And with the albatross, is there anything else about big and heavy and round the neck?

CL) Yes its dragging me down…. and as I get towards the wall I can’t see over or anything – just wall.

PW) And when by the wall and in order to see over to the goal, what has to happen to albatross?

CL) (with a wry smile) It needs to be anywhere but round my neck

PW) And can albatross be anywhere else?

CL) Yes, I don’t need it

At that moment he knew that perseverance was not the resource he needed as it was weighing him down as he walked towards his goal and approached the exams. So having asked him what other resource might be more appropriate he chose courage. We investigated courage in terms of the “wall” and it was clear that with courage he could  Language of desire not only see over the wall at all times (ie it was in proper perspective) but also it was a resource to use to smash through the wall. It transpired that taking courage as a resource would provide some other associated resources as well.

With tongue in cheek I told him later that when I was at school I knew a lad called Albert Ross who used to get really hung up on exams. “Really?” he said – and then the penny dropped.

2. The Mind-Shifting Question

This week I had a short consultative session with a client whose general issues were around weight loss, and getting back to feeling confident and not squeezing tightly into her clothes. In the course of the conversation it was apparent that she would be comfortable and okay for 3-4 weeks at a time and then would fall off the wagon and “binge” for a period of time. The binge period was always broken by self control in the end by arriving at the conclusion that “enough was enough”. However, she then had to go through the detox and rehab required to get back to feeling good again.

This is all familiar territory – and so having discovered what stopped the binge I moved to discover what started them – ie what pushed her off the wagon. It turned out it was pretty much all work related stresses and situations, and whilst I was on the point of exploring those areas she said, “Oh but that’s coming to an end because in two months time I start a new job.”

So – the conversation moved to this and how she felt and what about the job would be likely to impinge upon her. She then uttered that time-worn phrase that reveals everything we encounter about a new job – “of course there will be stresses especially at the start of the new job because I want to make a good impression…”

Having got her to pause, I asked her to put herself in the shoes of the people at her new place of work.

PW) You’ve just chosen this person (you) above many others (probably) to fill this role in your organisation, because of what this person (you) brings to the table in terms of work, expertise and personality. You’ve already made the best possible impression, haven’t you?

CL) Oh yes, I happen to know they have been trying to fill this post for over a year.

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