Language for Success

How Clean Language can deliver superior results in the Coaching Relationship

I recently met a fellow Coach. We were discussing our respective businesses and the difficulties we were having. As the conversation progressed, I became more aware that instead of listening to what I was saying, challenging my beliefs and perspective, she was offering me direction. She was saying things like “Do you know what you should do now?” and “You need to…” It got me thinking on how she works with her coaching clients.

A Coach is not supposed to offer advice. It isn’t their job and it isn’t ethical. A Coach does not live in the client’s world, has not had the client’s upbringing and does not filter the world in the same way as the client. In short, the Coach is not the Client. As a result, the Coach is in no position to offer advice or recommendations. By offering direction, the Coach removes the responsibility from the client to achieve their goals. If the decisions or actions don’t come from the Client, why should they implement them.

In reality, the Coach should remain completely separate from the situation and s/he should do or say nothing that might in any way influence a Client’s decision process. In other words, the Coach should ‘Watch his/her Language’.


One of the most potent tools IĀ use when working with clients is Clean Language. Clean Language is a concept that was devised by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees. In essence it is a process that uses completely non-directive language which challenges the client to arrive at his/her own solutions with zero influence. It is a remarkably powerful tool that really pushes the client to take responsibility for their own destiny and arrive at options, solutions and a perspective that works for them.

In reality we meet colleagues, peers, friends and family who all want to help and advise us. However, with the best intentions in the world, they can only tell us their experiences from their perspectives and from the set of variables that affected them. They are not necessarily the same criteria that are affecting us. As a result, there is a danger that we try to implement the solutions that worked for someone else. If they work, it is more by accident than by design. More often than not, though, they don’t quite work out. What does that do for us?

It makes us feel more stressed, more depressed and more anxious that the ‘solutions’ aren’t working. We may begin to blame ourselves or think our situation is beyond repair “Sure it worked for X so if it isn’t working for me, my business must be so much worse than I imagined!” Nothing could be further from the truth. What has happened is that you have simply tried to apply a solution for a different problem to your situation; WHICH IS NOT THE SAME PROBLEM!!!

It might be similar in some aspects, but the problem is not the same.

Many supposed Coaches fail to apply a Clean Language approach when dealing with clients and in so doing, they move from Coaching to Mentoring offering a solution that may (or may not) work.

Using Clean Language speeds up the coaching process. Why? Because it puts 100% of the focus on the client’s specific issues and, as is the Coaching process, it allows the client identify his/her own solutions, goals and actions.

If you want to experience Clean Language and see how it can have a dramatic effect on you and your business, contact me at