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The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’


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    Entries in language (2)


    It's time to clean up our language


    Listening to people talking is something we do every day; listening in workshops, in planning sessions, in meetings, conversations and learning environments.

    I don't know about you, but I hear lots of 'dirty' language! Ok, not swearing, but rather let's call it 'unclean language'. 

    This is language where people interrupt, make assumptions, give directions, tell people what to do and dish out prescriptions. Yes... how much do you enjoy being told what to do? Often we may not intend to be so ... dirty... with our language, so it's something to be aware of. 

    We really do need to clean up our language!

    Clean language has the capacity to break down silos, build trusting environments, boost our capabilities to think, evolve our ideas and deepen engagement. It's an approach identified and developed by New Zealander David Grove. More leaders, coaches, managers and drivers of change might like the idea of achieving those things.

    You can read more about the technicalities of clean language here and here but a session presented at a conference I was at recently reminded me of the power of this clean listening and communication tool.

    In short, here's how you keep it clean:
    • listen using the person's words
    • use 'and...' to kick off your sentence or question
    • ask 3 key clean questions (where x is a word they've mentioned/used)
      • And what kind of x is that x?
      • And is there anything else about x?
      • And that's x like what ?
    • stick to these three questions
    • slow down.
    You can get the essence of the session from my visual notes.

    So... how 'clean' are you? How clean are the others on your team? 

    Boost engagement, build trust and break down silos in these challenging times by cleaning things up.

    Careful of those unconscious 'commands'

    "I know you're tired after a long day today..."

    "We'll do this activity so it might feel like you're a kid back at school doing a test..."

    "I'm sorry if it feels like all of the speakers are droning on about this..."

    "You probably don't want to hear what I'm going to say next but ..."


    These are four real-life statements, made by team leaders, speakers, executives over the past few weeks ... people who should "know better".

    But often we don't know! We're blissfully (or dangerously) unaware of the words that leak out from our mouths from our minds and the power those words have on a team, an environment, a presentation, a project.

    I noted these four statements when I heard them and they all have a dangerous power to have the audience agreeing with you, under their breath, in their mind, or muttering to someone else.

    Let's run them again:

    "I know you're tired after a long day today..."

    <Yeah, so get off the stage and let me go and have a beer!>

    "We'll do this activity so it might feel like you're a kid back at school doing a test..."

    <So stop it! I don't need to do kids stuff. Let's do things that will actually create an outcome for this project!>

    "I'm sorry if it feels like all of the speakers are droning on about this..."

    <OK, so you're going to waffle too? Yes you've all been droning ALL day!>

    "You probably don't want to hear what I'm going to say next but ..."

    <You're right mate. I'm not gonna listen. Instead I'll think about ....>

    Be super careful about your 'banter' before you deliver important messages. This 'leakage' of uncertainty, apology or low levels of confidence can be turned around. 

    Instead, positively frame up what you're saying. 

    There's no need to use any of these waffle statements. Just deliver your content, your point, your story, your case study. And move on. 

    Set up the environment, the context and the team for a positive interaction, a creative environment with a strong 'why we're doing this', or 'why I'm here presenting this' or 'why this change is happening'. 

    They're the 'commands' you want people to buy in to and adopt. 

    That's a smoother path to change.