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EXERCISE 1 - Utilising ‘When’ and ‘As’ (in a group of three)

1. B asks A: And what would you like to have happen?

C notes A’s answer.

(If A's answer is short, B asks A: And is there anything else about that?)

2.  A goes out of the earshot of B and C.

B and C pick one Clean Language question and devise 4 ways to use ‘when’ asking the identical question of the same information. e.g.    

A: "I want to leave home."

And when you want to leave home, what kind of home is that home?
And when you leave home, what kind of home is that home?
And when leave, what kind of home is that home?
And what kind of home that, when you leave?

3. A returns.

B asks 2 of the questions.
C asks 2 of the questions.
answers each question.

B and C note answers.

After all 4 questions, A says what differences they noticed (and in particular, where there attention was directed by each question).

4. A goes to back out of earshot.

Taking into account all of A’s answers, B and C pick a different Clean Language question and devise 4 ways to use ‘as’ asking the same question of the same information (attempt to find additional ways of using ‘as’ from the first round).

5.    Repeat setp 3.

6.    Bring examples of different ways of using when/as back to the whole group.

In preparation for the following exercises, have the list of variations (standard and other) given below to hand.

Standard questions:

And when/as ..., [question]?
And [question], when/as ... ?


And even when ... ?

And after ... ?

And before ... ?

And since ...?

And through(out) ... ?

And during ... ?

And now that ... ?

And given ... ?

And besides ... ?

And beyond ... ?

And in spite of ... ?

And with ...?

And until ...?

And outside ...? [when in/out has been mentioned]

And within [container metaphor] ...?

And what determines when ...? [when a choice of bhaviours has been mentioned]

EXERCISE 2 - for group of 3 to 6

1. Person A writes a statement of a problem (with several sentences of description) on a flip chart.

2. Another person in the group picks one of the variations of the question (see the above list) and uses A's problem statement as a basis for asking their question.

A considers the answer but does not reply.

3. The next person in the group picks an unasked variation and uses A's problem statement as a basis for asking their question.

A considers the answer but does not reply.

4. Continue round the group until all variations on the list (and anymore that you can think of) have been asked.

5. Only when the exercise is finished does A report on their experience.

EXERCISE 3 - In pairs (10 minutes in each role)

A writes a current problem/difficulty for them in one sentence and then says it to person B.

B picks one of the variations listed and uses A's statement as the basis for asking that question.

A answers the question.
A repeats the same problem/difficulty statement.

B picks a different variation and asks it of A's original statement.

A answers this question.
B and A continue until they have asked/answered 6 different variations of A's original statement.

After they have answered 6 questions A reports on their experience.

Swap roles.

EXERCISE 4 - In 3's (15 minutes in each role)

Person B starts by asking person A 'And what would you like to have happen?'

Person A answers.

Person C asks one of the variations on the list using A's answer.

If it does not seem reasonable to ask A any of the variations then B just use when/as.

A answer the questions.

B asks a question with a different variation.

The role of facilitator passes between B and C every time one of the variations is asked.
Any of A's answers can be used to formulate a variation question.

After 15 minutes swap roles.

NOTE: The aim is to make the session as naturalistic as possible while asking as many variations as possible. The key purpose is for the facilitators (B and C) to practise asking the variations, not necessarily for the 'client' to have a life-changing experience.


An exercise based on “And when X, what happens to Y?” with discussion from a Clean Language practice group can be found at

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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