In Clean Language, a crucial question to learn early on is the “Whereabouts is (client’s words)?” which can also be phrased as “Where is (client’s words)?”. How do you know which version of the question to use?

Before we even get to this, perhaps a more fundamental point is that many learners tell me they struggle to know when and how to use either version of the question in their Clean Language conversations. On the face of it this is surprising, as unlike many Clean Language questions it’s quite an ordinary one that we all use frequently in regular conversations. The difference though is that with Clean Language, this question is generally asking about the inner world of thoughts feelings and experiences, not what’s out there in the physical world,

My advise to those having this struggle? Listen out for suitable cues from your coachee as to when to ask a where / whereabouts question that will land well. I’m just producing a short “You Tube” video all about this, so do watch out for that via our Clean Coaching Centre YouTube Channel. Plus, we’ll be launching the video through one of our short, free to attend ‘Bite Sized Clean’ workshops. Click here to see dates of all upcoming free tasters and to book your place.

Meanwhile, back to whether to ask where or whereabouts.

What actually is the difference between these two questions, given that David Grove whittled his questions down to the fewest needed to make the biggest impact. Why do we have two about location?

Recently I became aware that I tended to use “Whereabouts?” more frequently than “Where?”  But wasn’t sure why. I had a gut feel that the questions served in slightly different ways, but I hadn’t really drilled down into what that difference is, until now.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says that whereabouts as an adverb (ie used as a question) refers to ‘about where’ or ‘near to what? It is a more general, vaguer kind of enquiry rather than “where” which is asking for a more definitive location.

Hence, for me with Clean Language I find the softer, vaguer “whereabouts” question seems easier for the coachee to reply to. Even if they are not exactly sure where, maybe they do have a sense of roughly “over there somewhere”.

As a pair, the questions work brilliantly together, asked one after the other. One question on location is seldom enough. So having the two questions available means you can artfully follow up on that “over there somewhere” with “And where ‘over there somewhere’?” This time inviting the coachee to notice a more pinpointed place, as having now already reflected further, is likely to know more.

Want to fine tune your CL skills? We have just started our online advanced Clean Language training course (February 2024). It’s not too late to join as you can catch up on the recordings of any missed sessions. Also our foundation-level courses are running again from April 2024, click here to find out more.