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on January 22, 2009
"Clean" language, developed originally by David Grove, has been an interest of mine since I read "Metaphors in Mind" (Lawley and Tomkins). So, I was very interested to see the approach taken by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees. I'm impressed by this book's, simplicity and practicality. For the uninitiated or novice "clean" user, this book has some great application strategies, techniques and tips.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of "clean" questioning, it is a way of helping another person find answers without giving advice. This may sound similar to the contemporary model of "coaching", so popular today, particularly in the business context. However, "clean" is substantially different. "Clean" is as clean as possible of the questioner's assumptions, opinions and metaphors. Furthermore, although listening is an integral component of the process of clean, it definitely does not use techniques such as paraphrasing, summarising etc, for these automatically provide the opinion of the questioner.

Chapter headings are not normally my cup of tea (there's a metaphor for you!). However, Sullivan and Rees have selected some gems that add to the explanation and the reader's understanding of "clean". Two that particularly sum this up are, "No-one ever listened themselves out of a job" (Colin Coolidge, U.S. president) and "The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people's thinking" (Nancy Kline).

As Sullivan and Rees suggest in their introduction, the book is "designed to put Clean Language in people's hands, worldwide, ready to be used whenever it could be valuable". To my mind, they have achieved their aim. The book has 16 chapters, each of which has a select number of practical activities which enable the reader to practise the concepts. There are just 12 "clean" questions and each is covered in detail. They form three clusters, Developing Questions (to encourage a person to become clear about what's true for them), Sequence and Source Questions (to tease out the sequence of events), Intention Questions (to help the person establish what they would like to change).

This is a great book. If you are really interested in helping other people, then I would suggest reading this book, undertaking the activities, then reading it again. It's one that I will certainly be using in my role as management and leadership coach and facilitator. Highly recommended.

Bob Selden,
Author What To Do When You Become The Boss: How new managers become successful managers
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on December 15, 2009
I first learned about Clean Language in my hypnotherapy course at Cambridge last year. I was amazed at how we are all affected by what words we hear. This book is easy to read and gives very good examples of how to approach therapy of any kind using appropriate phrases and words to get the maximum benefits in relationships and in therapy. I was so impressed with this theory that I have sent the book to my sister who works on the crisis line in Arizona in order to help her communicate more effectively with desperate people who call her on the phone.
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on January 3, 2013
The central idea of the book is that metaphors are a fundamental tool for organising thoughts and we use them subconciously to make sense of the world, without even being aware of it. Some typical examples of that are temperature used for affection ("They greeted me warmly."), size used for importance ("Tomorrow is a big day."), height used for quantity ("Prices are high."), and purpose represented as a physical object of desire ("I saw an opportunity for success and grabbed it."). Though such simple metaphors should be unversally understood, more complex metaphors can be easily understood by different people in different ways. The authors argue that we can get better understanding and awareness of others' and our own ideas by recognising metaphors, pushing them from subconcious processing into concious analysis, understanding the ties between a metaphor and the real situation and reverse-engineering metaphorical solutions into real ones. For example, the next time you feel stuck while working, try thinking about what kind of stuck feeling that really is and what would make you feel unstuck.

Clean Language is an approach to soliciting information and facilitating discussion that recognises this central role of metaphors, helps us spot metaphors in other people's thoughts and our own ideas and makes those connections explicit. The premise of Clean Language is that such concious analysis of metaphors helps understand other people better. One particularly eye-opening aspect of this approach for me was how much my own metaphors and assumptions can cloud my understanding of clients' issues and situation. Clean Language provides a toolkit, through a set of twelve questions, that prevents polluting communication with our own metaphors, hence the title "Clean". Instead of introducing our own metaphors into the mix, Clean Language questions help people improve active listening.

Most of the examples in the book are about psychology, and helping people with psychological issues, but I've been able to translate many of those examples easily into software consulting. Since reading the book, I became a lot more attentive to the way others use metaphors and a lot more careful about driving the conversation with my own metaphors that could be easily misunderstood. This hardly makes it a life-changing experience, but anything that improves communication will surely be a useful toolkit for many people in the software industry. Business analysts, team leaders, process improvement coaches and consultants will probably benefit from this book the most.

I give the book four out of five stars. For all the good content, there is a bit too much repetition for my taste in the book. The example discussion sessions sometimes go on forever and I found myself skipping large portions of those parts.
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on February 11, 2012
Our understanding of people is changing. According to Steven Pinker and many other cognitive scientists, 'The Stuff of Thought' is fundamentally metaphoric. Whether we realize it or not, daily speech is peppered with metaphors - often several per minute.

David Grove was faced with a conundrum. If language is inherently metaphorical, how could he work with others' metaphors without bringing his own into the conversation? His solution was a brilliant innovation: Clean Language; a simple set of questions that make use of only the most basic elements of human perception -- space, event, category, attribution and intention. The combination of Clean Language with client-generated metaphors will be one of his enduring contributions.

While the 'clean' approach will be instantly valuable to therapists and coaches, Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds also shows how it can be taken into conversations between parent and child, teacher and pupil, manager and staff, doctor and patient, researcher and subject; into team meetings, organisational development and in many other areas. Along the way the reader is made aware of how their own assumptions and intentions influence the systems in which they live, work and play.

This book is part of a rising wave of interest, application and research into metaphor. I applaud Wendy and Judy's willingness and enthusiasm to make this work available to a wider range of people by the publication of such a practical and interesting book.

Penny Tompkins, co-author Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling
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on September 1, 2011
Clean Language is a book that asks all the right questions. It provides powerful and useful information. Recommended for those who want to help others or themselves. Give it a read.
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on July 4, 2013
This book has been very carefully crafted by the authors to lead the reader effortlessly through the theory and practise of Clean Language. It's clearly written, making this complex subject totally accessible. If you're prepared to work through this guide step by step, and develop your skills by using the tips and activities, then you really can start to experience the benefits of using a Clean approach in a variety of aspects of life. The book also makes a useful companion for anyone training in Clean Language. Sullivan and Rees have led me to revise my belief that Clean Language cannot be learned from a book. They have created a highly readable, practical book that contributes much to this fast developing field.
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on February 8, 2015
Bought this book along with TRUST ME, I'M THE PATIENT because it appeared to compliment each other and further my understanding of what exactly it meant by "Clean Language". Additionally, I had also signed up on UDEMY, which is a Learning Platform on line for a course by Judy Reese and was intrigued with the course. Udemy offers zillions of different courses online. Clean Language was a totally different approach for me which emphasizes a newer way to listen and respond to another, in any relationship. Read it slowly, learn the principles of the approach, and apply
it gingerly and you will get it.
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on February 25, 2009
Clean Language became for me as a coach and catalyst the most important tool for facilitating the client's approach to find new, lasting and working solutions - without any interpreting, suggesting or consulting. It combines on a new level: NLP, solution focused coaching, systemic consulting, psycho therapy, active listening and the world of speaking & thinking in metaphor. Wendy and Judy did a great job to create a book for leaders, therapists, coaches, developers, teachers, psychologists and all other people who offer their skills to others to facilitate their apporach of finding solutions and personal growth. The book is easy to read, very practical and full of great details about how to use Clean Language in every days practice.
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on August 2, 2014
mind opening. very practical. extreamely beneficial.
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on December 3, 2015
Very useful concept to improve your communication skills and better understand others, their problems and their challenges. The book is easy to read, full of exercises and examples, which will take you through the different ideas and techniques.

I enjoyed the reading and how easily you can implement and apply it on your daily personal interactions.
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