HOW CAN I USE CLEAN LANGUAGE TO HELP A CLIENT WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH A SITUATION THAT CAN’T BE CHANGED, AT LEAST FOR THE TIME BEING?
If the situation can’t be changed, then the question becomes, in what ways might the client like to change? It might be how he choses to act or think or feel. Change can happen in many ways.
Let’s imagine a business scenario. Suppose a client who has been running a successful business for over a decade comes to you upset about a significant decrease in sales. He lists several steps he has taken to trim his expenses and describes a new marketing approach he has just launched. Yet, he still feels "bad."
I ask myself: what can I do in the next hour that will be most helpful to this client? Coach him to come up with more marketing strategies? Invite him to explore other ways to cut back? This client has shown himself capable of doing this sort of thing on his own. He has taken some steps that need time to play out.
Notice, instead, where he ended his explanation: with his feelings.
Acknowledging his situation and efforts, I ask, And you have trimmed expenses...and new marketing. And you still feel bad. And when all that, how would you like to feel?
I'd like to stop beating myself up about it. My whole industry is having similar problems; I need to have realistic expectations!
And when you stop beating yourself up and have realistic expectations, then what happens?
Then I'll feel like I'm okay. It's not my fault. I'll be okay.
And that's okay… like… what?
Like I can weather the storm. I'm in a little log cabin with a fire going, snug and warm and safe, even though the wind is howling outside.
And whereabouts is that log cabin?
It's all around me, about 3' square.
And all around you… and you're okay. And what kind of you is a you that can weather a storm?
I'm competent—got my Merit Badges, like a Boy Scout! I can keep a fire going. I've got survival skills.
This client is beginning to develop a vision of himself as a resourceful survivor who sees the problem as being outside of himself. How much better able he will be to devote his energy to his business rather than defending himself against his own beatings!
We call this developing a “resource state,” an internal feeling that will be of value to a client. You can learn more about how to do this from my book, Mining Your Client’s Metaphors: A How-to Workbook on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling, Basics Part One: Facilitating Clarity.