Clean language is a concept that originated in the field of psychotherapy and has now been adopted in various fields, including coaching, education, and business. At its core, clean language is a communication technique that involves asking questions and using language in a way that is neutral, non-judgmental, and free of assumptions.
The importance of using clean language
The idea behind clean language is to create a safe space for the person being communicated with to explore their own thoughts and feelings without being influenced by the biases, assumptions, or beliefs of the person doing the communicating. Clean language can be especially helpful in situations where there may be a power dynamic at play, such as in an EFT session, where the person receiving guidance from the practitioner may feel vulnerable or exposed.
The term “clean language” was first coined by psychotherapist David Grove. Grove observed that language can have a powerful impact on a person’s thoughts and feelings, and that the language used by therapists can often influence the outcome of a therapeutic session. When our clients are free to explore their own thoughts and feelings in a way that is free of judgment or interpretation, rapport happens very quickly. By asking open-ended questions and using the person’s own language, an EFT practitioner can help the person gain a deeper understanding of their own thoughts and feelings. This then leads to a more effective therapeutic outcome. When EFT is done skillfully, using the client’s own words, practitioners can help their clients identify their own goals. They can then create a plan for achieving those goals, without imposing their own biases or beliefs.
What do we mean by "parrot phrasing"?
In day 1 of our EFT trainings we teach students how common it is in our society to paraphrase instead of sticking with a client’s words to describe an event. We have a module on “parrot phrasing” versus paraphrasing. Parrot phrasing involves repeating back the exact words that the speaker has used, while paraphrasing involves restating the speaker's words in your own words.
By repeating back the speaker's words, as we do when having the client repeat the setup statement, the listener can help the speaker clarify their own thinking and gain deeper insights into their own experiences. For example, if a client says "When I think about that meeting I feel like I'm drowning," the practitioner might respond with parrot phrasing using the setup statement "Even though thinking about that meeting I feel like I’m drowning….." By using the same words as the client, the practitioner avoids adding any new ideas or interpretations to the speaker's statement, allowing the client to explore their own experience more deeply.
As humans with a brain wired for alerting us to dangers in our environment we naturally feel safer when someone “speaks our language”. Imagine tribal life in the jungle thousands of years ago and one day you are far from your village gathering berries. You encounter someone on your path. You say hello in the way you are accustomed to in your tribe, “Ba'ax ka wa'alik” and this person replies, “Quen tinemi”. Immediately and without your conscious awareness, your amygdala is on high alert and sends signals to your body that this is a stranger and that you might be in some kind of danger. If they, however, greet you using the same words, you relax and feel safe.
Paraphrasing involves restating the speaker's words in your own words. This technique is often used in traditional therapy and counseling. For example, if a client says "I'm really angry at my boss," the practitioner might paraphrase by saying, "It sounds like you're feeling a lot of resentment towards your boss.” A good EFT practitioner will not only refrain from changing the words a client says but will also know how to balance parrot phrasing with open ended questions to get to specific events which we all know is the key to mastery in EFT. In this example the open ended question would be, “I hear that you are really angry at your boss. Can you give me an example of when he made you feel that way recently?”.
These concepts seem easy but in western society we are always listening to respond. We fail to allow the speaker spaciousness to feel things out. We are trained in many healing arts to extrapolate words to come up with a diagnosis or pattern or just feel like we are being helpful by putting our take on things.
Practicing deep listening
In our trainings we often start practicing this deep listening by putting students into triads where one person is the practice client, one is the observer and the third is the practitioner. The client’s job is to allow the practitioner to guide them with EFT. The practitioner’s job is to find specific events and lead the client in a round of Basic Shortcut EFT. The observer’s role is to gently point out whenever the practitioner fails to use the client’s words. After 10 minutes they reverse their roles and repeat the process until all three participants have been in each role. To say this is an eye opening experience is an understatement!
One way you can practice mastering this is to start noticing in your daily interactions how often someone listening to you changes or paraphrases what you’ve said and then catch yourself whenever you do the same. You owe it to your clients to honour that if given the chance they will know exactly what they are experiencing without your interpretation. You will even be amazed to see that those that initially have had a challenge naming things like emotions will grow in their emotional intelligence organically with EFT.
Alina Frank is an EFT Master Trainer of Trainers, training and mentoring practitioners since 2006. Contributing author of 8 EFT books. Author of How to Want Sex: Using EFT to Rekindle Your Passion. Co-director of EFT MBA: Marketing and Business Academy for EFT Coaches www.eftmba.com Organizer of annual NW Tappers Gathering, raising over thousands of dollar for continuing EFT research. Matrix Reimprinting trainer since 2011. Producer of the Science of Tapping documentary. Director of EFT Relationship Coach Certification www.eftrelationshipcoach.com EFT and Matrix Training website www.efttappingtraining.com
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