I learned about this technique while attending the Agile 2023 Scotland conference as a speaker this year in July.
To be honest, I was impressed with it. 💥
How often do we ask ourselves what kind of questions we use when we want to help someone else or identify the truth?
Imagine your team member is refusing to talk during a retrospective. Our first instinct would be to say something like, "Why are you silent, Tom? Everyone else is speaking. This is a safe environment."
Contempt, blame, accusation in one sentence… how would you respond to that?
Hide, keep silent, defend yourself…
What if we could ask questions, leave contempt aside, and use our natural curiosity to identify the truth?
When curious, we put aside what we think and feel about the situation. We simply want to know without any pre-conditions.
Now, let's say we are curious, and we start asking Clean questions:
A: What is safety in a retrospective for you?
B: When I am valued and listened to.
A: Being valued and listened to is like what?
B: When I want to say something, my team members are genuinely interested in what I say.
A: Is there anything else about being interested in what you say?
B: Yeah, I want them to care and not to use my words against me whenever something goes wrong.
End of dialogue.
Did you feel the power?
It seems simple. But try it yourself. It is hard not to add more words, opinions, or solutions whenever we ask questions.
But once you stop, that transforms how people respond.
This coaching technique is developed by David Grove, a psychotherapist and consultant. They are used to facilitate a deep exploration of a person's thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a non-intrusive and respectful manner.
For example, if someone says, "I feel stuck," a Clean Language question might be, "And when you're stuck, what kind of stuck is that?" This encourages the person to explore and define their own experience without the questioner imposing their own interpretation.
The Clean questions you can use are:
What kind of…is that? (attributes)
Is there anything about…? (attributes)
That's…like what? (metaphor)
I felt the power of it on myself. Try it for yourself and share your insights with me.
I hope you found it helpful. :)
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