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on 22 January 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 2 January 2009
I've just started reading this gem of a book for the second time, and keep finding new meanings which further enrich my understanding and use of Clean Language. In many ways, it changes the way we think about the way people think and use language, which results in a much richer understanding of what constitutes effective communication. I came across the concept of Clean Language about a year ago when reading the fascinating book 'Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling.' It instantly captured my interest, and I have been practising and applying Clean Language on a large number of occasions, often with surprising results.

However, I still had many unanswered questions which I felt limited my understanding of and confidence in using Clean Language. When I heard this book was about to be released, I instantly ordered it. It exceeded my expectations in many ways. I found it to be both a great companion to Metaphors in Mind and an excellent work in itself which extends and refines many aspects of Clean Language. It contains a rich collection of exercises, real-life examples, tips, and background information which should satisfy newcomers as well as experienced users of Clean Language. It extends the scope for using Clean Language to include a wide variety of contexts including counselling, training, teaching, management, parenting, relationships, and research.

For me, the book managed to effectively weave together the basics as well as more advanced aspects of Clean Language. As a relative newcomer, I especially liked the many exercises which allow the reader to first develop and gain confidence in using the basics of Clean Language before moving on to more advanced techniques. The Frequently Asked Questions chapter provides some excellent down-to-earth tips and explanations which greatly help any newcomer dealing with relevant issues and skills such as memory strategies, dealing with information overload, maintaining focus, and many others.

The techniques have helped me to support myself as well as friends and colleagues in gaining a deeper understanding of difficult situations they faced and in finding new ways to think and act effectively, often with surprising results. In fact, I find it increasingly difficult not to use any Clean Language within conversations, as once you become more familiar with the questions you start to understand their power in developing and maintaining positive relationships and gaining a deeper understanding for yourself and those around you.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2009
As co-creator of Clean Language, Carol Wilson, says in one of the front of book recommendations: "With this book, Clean Language comes of age."

Which is, I think, a very apt metaphor.

Wendy and Judy have written a genuinely well-crafted and useful book which anyone wanting to get a solid grounding in Clean Language will want to own and read, and read again. And such is the quality of the writing and expertise behind the writing that I can imagine many people who are already "Clean Languagers" (?) will also find it equally interesting and useful.

The essence of Clean Language, as I understand it, is to create a context in which people can create and learn from their own metaphors. The process of Clean Languaging is therefore all about how to assist the client to carry out the creation and development of their metaphor(s) with as little input from the practitioner as possible. Hence the practitioner uses "clean" language, language that is free from hints, suggestions, directions or any of the other influences that get in the way of the client being able to create a metaphor that is genuinely, as far as this is ever possible, "all their own work."

It is true that the process concentrates on just 12 questions, but this book is far from being limited to just a basic description of the questions and the overall process.

It shows how Clean Language can be used constructively in a wide range of contexts - including using it on yourself (in the privacy of your own head!), as well as with other people.
And all the way through, the book positively sparkles with the little hints and observations that mark the authors as being genuinely experienced and effective in the skill that they are describing.

As well as getting a lot of very useable information from it, I found this book genuinely entertaining, and I suspect that many, many other readers will enjoy it just as much.

Check it out and see if I'm right.
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on 30 December 2012
(In the style of the authors)
Questioner: What would a five star book of this kind look like?
Speaker: It would introduce clean language techniques in a clear manner that I could apply.
It would link these techniques to their roots in NLP , Ericksonian Hypnosis, Systemic approaches and solution Focused Therapy.
It would honestly appraise the approach and admit to wide influences , even if they were from other approaches than Clean Language texts and NLP.
It would be genuinely innovative and also consider "tricky" or complex situations and give examples of using these techniques in difficult meeting/teaching/ business negotiation or clinical contexts.

Questioner : Did this book look like that?
Speaker : No. Only the first thing I stated was achieved.
Questioner: Well, will you settle for that ?...................

If the answer is ....."yes" then this book is for you. It is a clear introduction. If the answer is "no" there are some issues you may consider before buying it.
This book does explain core aspects of clean language which is an interesting idea for counsellors, business folk and therapists. It is clearly (if rather repetitively) written. The case examples used are simplistic and do not seem "real" somehow. There are references to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and many popular quotations that may either Jar with the reader or may be amusing and accessible , depending on what you seek from a book of this kind.

It also attempts to stand in splendid isolation, pulling the ladders clean language would have used to climb to this position up behind it - it has an embarrassingly short list of sources and wider reading on language in therapy and the authors seem to be laying claim to relationship questions, future focused questioning styles, systemic feed forward or preferred future questions, Ericksonian adventures in metaphor and matching communication patterns and cooperation in therapy. Certainly Steve De Shazer and Bergs language structures from SFBT are either ignored or have been missed by authors? A good introduction to these would be [ASIN:0789033984 More Than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (Haworth Brief Therapy). Sullivan and Rees acknowledge only the late David Grove and "clean language" sources for what are very widespread therapeutic techniques and language structures. These techniques could just as easily be linked to JL Austons "How to do things with Words"[ASIN:019281205X How to Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures delivered in Harvard University in 1955 (Oxford Paperbacks), Wittgensteins work on "Language Games a good summary is in his biography by Ray Monk [ASIN:0099883708 Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius] and Milton Erickson's use of metaphor. In fact , a good accompanying book to Clean Language would be J Haleys "Uncommon Therapy" [ASIN:0393310310 Uncommon Therapy: Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H.Erickson, M.D.], his collection of Milton Ericksons' case studies in which some of these these techniques get their first airing (along with some strategic manipulation though so take care before going down this route it's addictive!).

Even NLP's Bandler and Grinder acknowledged Erickson! By suggesting that there are only clean language created techniques in clean language as an approach, Sullivan and Rees create a world where clean language has sprung from nowhere. I feel this is ungenerous. Putting these ideas in a wider context with other approaches would have helped rather than hindered the model. However Sullivan and Rees describe themselves as "specialist international trainers, psychotherapists, coach and coach supervisors , business consultants" etc and I acknowledge there is a need to create a "new" product to fulfil these roles successfully. Overall this IS a good introduction but you may still want to look wider than the sources used to put this interesting way to use words and metaphors into some context and also to be able to use the techniques effectively in more testing clinical and business situations.
Dave Hawkes . Senior Lecturer Mental Health.
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on 16 June 2009
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 3 January 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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I came to this book having trained as a Clean Language facilitator with Wendy and Judy and having read Metaphors in Mind by James Lawley and Penny Tomkins.

The power of 'Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors And Opening Minds' is in it's simplicity and clarity.

It takes a reader step by step through a learning process - providing exercises and examples, taken from a variety of 'real life' contexts - that is so well structured that readers are able to learn the process and put it into practice without additional input.
It's also a valuable resource for experienced practitioners because it covers the spectrum, from basic to advanced techniques in the same clear, concise style.

I've seen newcomers begin to use Clean Language having read the book and practised the exercises, with no other external support. I've also see students arrive at a live training, having read the book beforehand, and make accelerated progress as facilitators because of it.

As a teacher and coach I can see that it's holds the kind of information that has the potential to transform the practice and effectiveness of educators and coaches around the globe and so it will make a valuable addition to anyone's professional reading list.

I can thoroughly recommend it!
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on 14 November 2008
There are many new books out there for anyone interested in personal development or the human condition. Few have this great blend of radical content and the clarity to take you there easily, step by step. This places this work among those 'must have' books for any teacher, NLP practitioner, psychotherapist or manager interested in the art of communication. Read it and it will alternately alter your thinking like a light going on and fill you with that sense of "at last, someone has said what I knew deep down all along".

As the book says - like musical notes clean language can be used to create anything from a nursery rhyme to a symphony. Reading this book is like having learned a new instrument: hugely valuable and rewarding and with so many opportunities to play.
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on 9 March 2009
It cleverly illustrates the operation and interdependencies of Clean Language, while keeping the language simple for everyone to follow. Numerous examples and references help the reader grasp the concepts with ease and stay interested. Beginner and intermediate-level coaches will find this book an indispensable tool to learn about asking questions and sharpen their knowledge and skills as facilitators. This book is also an excellent Clear Language reference for everyone. If you have ever wondered about how to get anyone to open up, or you have ever felt overwhelmed by the complexities of the Clean Language, this book is for you.
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on 27 February 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.

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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