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Thread: Special approach for some clients.

  1. #1

    Default Special approach for some clients.

    Hi, there! I'm using SM & CL since summer'08 and I must say that it is the most powerful tech I ever used.

    Where some tech "stopped working" SM just started

    But I found some difficulties then working with some clients:
    1) some of them, then I ask "And What Would You Like To HH", they ask: What do you mean by that? Should I give some explanation about SM & CL in order to prevent such questions?
    2) Some clients are generating too many information and they I try to convert it to metaphor, they saying that it is "only a metaphor" and quickly starting to use "ordinary life information, avoiding any metaphor convertion".

    Sorry for my English

    So the question is: what should I do (prepare clients, give them what information about SM & CL) to encourage clients to stay with metaphor, rather than using ordinary info and somehow avoiding metaphor?

    Thank you

    p.s. Im improving my experince in SM and most clients have no major difficulties

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, UK

    Default having happen

    Hi Dmitry

    Great questions!

    Occasionally I have had a client who is confused by the question 'And what would you like to have happen?' This could be for different reasons from client to client.

    • WWYLTHH presupposes that there IS something that they would like to have happen (so, like all questions, it is not entirely clean ). So one reason a client might baulk at this point is if they have no conscious awareness that in fact they would like anything to happen. So the question makes no sense to them.
    • They may be surprised that you don't ask them 'So, what is the problem?', which many therapies do.
    • Another possibility is that in this client's life, no-one asks them for their opinion or checks what they want. Sadly, I suspect this is quite common.
    • They may not believe that they are entitled to like things or want things.
    • The language of the question (in English) is a little unusual and, if I remember rightly, in Russian it is in the future or conditional tense? Sometimes the unusual configuration of words makes people wary, especially at the start of a session when they maybe don't know you very well yet.
    • In English people often think the question ends with '...have happened', which gives an entirely different meaning. This can also confuse them.
    What to do? Sometimes I find it helps to repeat the question confidently, this time more slowly, in a reassuring tone if necessary, giving them time to consider it. We are all trained at school that questions should be answered instantly. The Clean Language questions are designed to send people on a quest for self-knowledge, it's not about getting instant factual answers. And the reply 'What do you mean?' IS an answer, of course.

    Sometimes I change the question on the repeat to 'And what would you like to happen?' If they don't like that, I might go more conversational in style for a time. I explain that the question is asking them what they would like to have happen in their life, in this session, in their relationships, in the next 5 minutes - what ever they want to focus on. I explain it's up to them to choose what they want to focus on and they can change it whenever they like. Then I ask the original question again.

    Any other ideas and comments from other facilitators out there?


    PS I'll write something about your other question in a day or two.

  3. #3


    Thank you very much, Phil

    So, it is normal to persistenly ask the same question, maybe with different voice tonality, speed?

    I look futher for replies.

    Best wishes,

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, UK

    Default listening

    So, it is normal to persistently ask the same question, maybe with different voice tonality, speed?
    Well, 'persistently' may be a stronger word than what I mean. It's hard to advise without specific examples. One client may just need to know the purpose of the question before answering, another may live in a world where they don't conceive it is possible to 'have' anything 'happen' so the question doesn't make sesne to them. Another may want to know why you want to know!

    It can help to be more specific while offering options, even though this is not so clean. For example, if you ask "What would you like to have happen?" and they say "What do you mean?", you could say: "I mean: 'what would you like to have happen in this session, in your life, in any context you like?'".

    If they can answer that, at least you are moving again and you have something to work with.

    If they want to know why, I say something like: "It will give us a starting point, a focus for beginning our work together. Later it will be a reference point, for us to see where we are in relation to it. You can change what you would like to have happen at any time and I will check with you occasionally to see if it has changed without us noticing." Something like that, modified to suit the client.

    Say they answer: "Oh, well, in this session, I want to explore some issues I have", you could work with 'explore', e.g. "What kind of explore is that explore?" or ask a question about what they think (hope) will happen when they explore those issues, e.g. "And when you explore those issues, then what happens?". This may lead to a desired outcome that is more compelling than what happens in the next 5 minutes - or not. And that's okay and at least the process is under way.

    So the question is: what should I do (prepare clients, give them what information about SM & CL) to encourage clients to stay with metaphor, rather than using ordinary info and somehow avoiding metaphor?
    Some people we work with do create a lot of words that aren't overtly metaphorical. How inconvenient for us Symbolic Modellers, who love developing metaphors! Some talk almost entirely in conceptual terms, never referring to feelings or to bodily sensations, having apparently no idea of storing any information anywhere but in their head. What to do?

    Again, it would be good to hear from others about this: what do you all do?

    My advice to myself when a client is verbose is that the first thing to do is... listen. The last thing to do is... listen. In between, spend the time really listening.

    Okay, that's glib. What do I mean? I tell myself to:

    Be quiet and listen: by listening exquisitely to everything they say, sooner or later I will start to pick up patterns in their communication, patterns that I can direct their attention to if appropriate.

    Be curious: how does this person construct their world? The repeated words, intonations and gestures that are less obviously metaphorical may still give clues to the structure of my client's experience. 'I run my life in strict (emphasised with unconscious hand movement)adherence to a set of values that were handed down to me from my parents'. I muse internally: 'what does that hand know? Where does 'strict' come from? What kind of values? How were they 'handed down'? What was the mechanism for that?'

    Be a little skeptical (internally): if this stream of conceptual words explaining how the world is like this and like is the whole story for this person, how come they are sitting in my consulting room telling me about it? What else might be going on?

    Be respectful: I remind myself that this way of processing is how it is for them, whether I am comfortable with it or not. Can I accept them as they are?

    Be honest: do I really want them to change the way they communicate to a way that suits me? What would the effect on them, on me?

    Time for some others to contribute their way: my way is not THE way!


  5. #5


    Great post, Phil! Thank you very much! It gave me some insights about general work with clients.... Thanks again for quick and deep answers

    Best wishes,

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    North West England
    Blog Entries

    Default long answers

    Hi Dmitry. Hi Phil,

    The "What do we do when their answers are so long?" is question I was asked by our practise group this week.

    • at the end you can say - and when there's all that - what would you like to have happen?
    • and when there's all that, thats like what?
    • at the end say "I think there's something really significant in that, what is it for you?" they'll have to do an internal search.
    • ask them to draw their outcome or to show you it as a movement

    or of course over time you'll improve your listening skills simply by asking clean questions. Then you can listen for repeated patterns in their answers rather than trying to remember all their words

    happy practising

    P.S. Of course there's always some of David Grove's techniques -

    • just as they start talking, saying "write down everything you know about that" and keep saying that until they run out of words - even if that's a couple of days!
    • Wandering off and coming back as they finish and saying - and is there anything else?
    • Reading the newspaper while they talk then every now and then saying "draw that"

    Of course - I'm in awe of david's skill and don't recommend being that brutal until you've developed great sensitivity

  7. #7


    Just another question emerged: what we should take as goal in session and what we must discuss with client before session begins? I mean that if a client want to: to be loved by everyone how we can work with such goal?

    and another question about Clean Space: then I say to client to put list of paper where it should be in relation to problem/goal paper, they ask: what do you mean in relation? or what does mean: what new place knows something about problem/goal?

    Best wishes,
    Last edited by Dmitry; 05 October 2008 at 07:12 PM.

  8. #8


    Dimitry, you ask some interesting questions.

    With regard to your first question, "what we should take as goal in session and what we must discuss with client before session begins? I mean that if a client want to: to be loved by everyone how we can work with such goal?" there is a useful model James and I created for thinking about the time-length of a desired outcome:

    General timeframes (from longer to shorter) are:

    1. A desired outcome outside of the session in the future
    2. A desired outcome for the session
    3. A desired outcome in the moment

    This would look like:

    1. The client states their desired outcome (which in the future).

    2. You can ask, What needs to happen in this session for you to [desired outcome]?

    3. During the session you can consider, what question can I ask next that will encourage the conditions for the client to begin to experience their answer to No. 2, right here, right now?

    By the way, the client example you gave “I want to be loved by everyone” raises an important point. Within a 'clean' philosophy it is not our job to decide whether a client's desired outcome is possible to achieve (unless the potential for harm is involved). While I might think it's highly unlikely that they can be loved by "everyone", that's what they want. Using a clean approach we want to honour that 'want' and give the client the opportunity to discover for themselves how feasible it is and whether their desired outcome needs to evolve into something else.


  9. #9


    Thank you very much for answers

    I'm going deeper and deeper with each session and really impressed by opportunities SM&CL suggest

    Best wishes,

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