Keeping It Clean!

Say it the way you want it.’  I’m sure you recall hearing this sound advice many times during your NLP training.  It is quite impressive that every time you speak you change the way that someone feels and within the ever widening field of NLP, we continually strive to make the change positive.  You were also encouraged to always use the client’s words when working with the technologies that you have learned.  By employing only the words that the client uses, we hold the key to unlocking the door to the client’s model of the world, a privileged view of another person’s reality which is unique to them and protected vehemently by the guardians of truth.  Our language not only defines who we are, it provides a window which provides a portal into our inner world.


Entering into the reality which has been carefully shaped and maintained by the client means keeping our language under control, keeping it ‘clean’.  The use of clean language has been pioneered by David Grove.  Ernest Rossi said, “A gentle genie has escaped from the lamp.  His name is David Grove and his magic is clean language.”  According to David, clean language has three separate functions:


  • To acknowledge the client’s experience in exactly the way that they describe it.
  • To act as a compass to direct the client’s attention to a particular aspect of their internal    representation.
  • To assist the client to begin to model their own quest for self-development and understanding.


Using clean language when coaching a client facilitates the exploration of their unique model of the world.  The modelling process is conducted from their perspective, utilising their internal representation in their perception of time and space, using their words.  Clean language avoids the contamination of the client’s view by the coach’s perspective.  The coaching really becomes all about the client.


Client’s learn about themselves by investigating their inner world and this process is facilitated by the coach.  The client makes the journey whilst the coach holds the compass.  David Grove provided us with nine basic clean language questions to be used within the coaching process.


Firstly, developing questions:

  • And is there anything else about (Client’s words)?
  • And what kind of (Client’s words) is that (Client’s words)?
  • And that’s (Client’s words) like what?
  •  And where is (Client’s words)?
  • And whereabouts (Client’s words)?

Secondly, moving time questions:

  •  And then what happens?
  •  And what happens next?
  •  And what happens just before (Client’s words)?
  •  And where could (Client’s words) come from?


The cleanliness of these questions is four fold.  Firstly, the questions make the most use of the client’s own language patterns and syntax.  They conform directly to the presuppositions connected with the client’s internal representations. They only guide the client through thinking in form, space and time rather than content and lastly, they allow for non-verbal communication to be utilised in exactly the same way as with the verbal alternative.


Asking clean questions allows the client to breathe a life giving breath into their internal representations which can then be worked on to create the perfect degree of change. 


Now, imagine how you can use clean language to assist your client when coaching.  An immediate connection for Master Practitioners is to weave clean language threads into the already elegant tapestry of your detailed Personal History.  Tapping into the symbolic and metaphoric nature of the client’s unconscious mind will give you a clear view into the nature of their internal representations and world view landscape.  You already know that the more you understand about your client, the more you can assist them to translate and transform their thinking.


All Practitioners have undoubtedly come across clients who have created barriers to their internal representations, making it virtually impossible for them to access their model of the world and to create change.  A few strategically employed clean language questions will chip away at the seemingly insurmountable walls that the client has erected until a breakthrough is experienced. 


Self-reframing becomes possible by deploying clean language.  The client can consider their representation of the world from another, more useful perspective by modifying the symbolic nature of their subjective experience.  Imagine how useful this technique would be as your client takes the positive learnings on their Time Line.  I’m sure you can think of many applications for these simple language patterns.  When you have tried them out, please share your experience with us.


Evolving your NLP expertise is an important component of your continuous personal development.  Remember, NLP is about curiosity and the willingness to experiment.  At Quest for Success, we are serious about continuing our learning and tirelessly evolve each of our training courses to reach new levels of excellence.  We strive for personal evolution and wish the same for all our graduates, of whom we continue to be very proud.  Every time you speak you change the way someone feels.  Say it the way you want it and keep your language spotless.