The secret ingredients of AWWYLTHH?

Five ingredients
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Yukari Ishii posed an interesting question to Penny Tompkins and me. She said:

When you ask ‘And what would you like to have happen?’ it has a different effect to when I ask it. What is the secret ingredient in how you ask this question?

We came up with five ‘ingredients’ in how we ask the ‘And what would you like to have happen?’ (AWWYLTHH?) question that may not be obvious to an observer:

  1. Modelling state
  2. Intention
  3. Where the question lands
  4. Non-verbal delivery
  5. Timing

1. Modelling state.

Penny says:

When I start a session I click into my modelling state. I put aside anything else I was thinking about. I’m fully focussed on the client. I’m calm inside. My mind is quiet and receptive. I’m open to whatever and however the client responds. I am prepared to notice any metaphors that show up, as well the inherent logic, structure and process of what the client says. I also pay attention to how the client’s body processes the question. I’m not drawing any conclusions, just allowing this to inform my system.

When we ask AWWYLTHH? we adopt Caroline Myss’ maxim: “Have no expectations, but great expectancy.”

2. Intention.

When we ask AWWYLTHH? we are inviting the client to identify and connect with a very basic part of human nature, a desire (a ‘would like’). It’s vital to note that we are primarily inviting them to identify it for them self. And only secondarily so that we get to know the answer. This intention is the basis for facilitating the client to self-model how their system works.

David Grove designed this question so that it is very permissive. It minimises any pressurise on the client to answer in a way that they may think they ‘should’ answer. It doesn’t ask for a ‘want’ which usually requires a stronger commitment than a ‘would like’. Our intention is aligned with the purpose of the question: to invite the client to express what is true for them – whatever that maybe. Or for them to realise that at that moment, they don’t know what they would like. Every response provides the client (and us) with information.

3. Where the question lands

We spent many a happy hour with David Grove experimenting with ‘where a question lands’. Penny says:

I remember David getting me to ask him Clean Language questions so he could give me feedback on where my questions landed. I had to ask him the same question in different ways so he could show me where each version of the question landed in his mind-body space.

So rather than ask a question as we do in a normal dialogue, we consider where we want our question to land in the client’s body or perceptual space. Although this is a metaphor I think of it happening physically. I think of the question coming out of my mouth in a stream of words and arcing over to the client to arrive in a specific place. When AWWYLTHH? is asked as an opening question I ‘aim’ it at the client’s whole being.

We even do this on Zoom.

4. Non-verbal delivery.

There are some specific behavioural ways to increase what David Grove called the ‘oomph factor’ of your question. For example, we slow down the speed and add rhythm to the delivery of AWWYLTHH?. And sometimes we add emphasis to the word ‘like’. We also do not hold eye-contact, especially immediately after asking the question. We want to encourage the client to introspect rather than pay attention to us.

5. Timing.

Timing relates to when we ask this question. Although it is usually our opening question, sometimes we will wait, particularly if it seems the client needs to give a lot of background before they are poised to consider what they would like to have happen.

And timing is particularly important when this question is asked during a session. For example, it’s about calibrating when the client has just enough of an embodied sense of their problem before we use this question as part of the P.R.O. model.

If you put these “secret ingredients” into your AWWYLTHH? question, in fact into any Clean Language question, it’s likely the client will have a very different experience to being asked a question with everyday ingredients.

Try it and. Let us know what happens.

Further reading

  1. Modelling state – A modeller’s perspective
  2. Intention – Pointing to a new modelling perspective
  3. Where the question lands –
  4. Non-verbal delivery – Philosophy and principles of Clean Language
  5. Timing – Coaching for PROs
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