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April 18, 2018

The Clearing Model: Connective Bridge or Divisive Weapon

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The Clearing Model is a brilliant tool that guides us to make sharp distinctions among facts, stories, feelings, desires, and projections. When people just talk out their differences these distinctions generally don’t get made. Everything gets mashed together. When used wisely and with right intention, this model leads to a steep reduction in drama and all around high performing teams.

Inherent in its brilliance is its simplicity. Here’s what it looks like…

Affirm a positive intention for the clearing and then share...

  1. Facts (unarguable data that a video camera would record)
  2. Stories (opinions, thoughts, beliefs, judgments)
  3. Feelings (sad, angry, scared, joy or creative)
  4. Wants (desires)

These four steps are the basics of the clearing model, but the deep learning occurs with the next two:

  1. Your part in creating the disconnection with the other person (I withheld, gossiped, believed all my stories as true, felt entitled, developed resentment, etc)
  2. Projections (what is true about me that I project onto you rather than face it in myself).

The person receiving the clearing stays open and deeply listens while saying the following:

  1. What I hear you saying … (Say as close to possible exactly what you heard the other person say; no interpretation, paraphrasing or adding extra thoughts and words).
  2. Is that right?
  3. Is there more?
  4. Are you clear?

As you practice the model, you’ll likely discover that...

Facts just ARE. They don’t cause drama or conflict. They don’t come with meaning attached to them. We give them meaning.

Stories are made up in our heads. We are the source of our stories and their meanings. Stories are the source of all drama, conflict, pain and suffering.

Feelings come from the stories we make up, not from the facts.

Wants/desires clearly stated and owned, not demanded or expected, are key to healthy relationships and living an empowered life. 

We create relational disconnection and separation. If we’re disconnected from another person we are creating the disconnection.

Eating our projections is a key to learning, growing, and becoming conscious.

Do you remember earlier when I wrote that the clearing model reduces drama and contributes to high functioning teams when used wisely and with right intention? Yes, it bears mentioning and italicizing twice. The clearing model can absolutely be used as a below the line weapon.

Clearing as a Weapon

When people clear from below the line they are committed to being right and proving they’re right about their stories. Their real motivation isn’t to clear, to let go, but to use the clearing model to justify their position. They don’t really want to come back into connection with the other person unless the other person is willing to agree with them about their stories and how they see reality. When you use the clearing model to prove you’re right, it becomes a divisive weapon instead of a bridge to connect. If you’re below the line, wait until you’re ready to shift above the line—and have already shifted—to clear with someone.  

Clearing from Presence to Own the Projection

From above the line you take responsibility for creating the situation with the other person. You realize that the clearing is all about you and not the other person. From this place, you see all of life as a mirror reflecting your consciousness back to you. You see that you are making up stories about others and that your complaints about them are actually about parts of yourself that you have disowned. Your clearing is free from blame and criticism. You use the clearing model to learn and grow, and to create the greatest possibility for connection with the other person.

So if the issue is all about me— my stories, my feelings, my projections—why would I need to clear with another person? Can’t I just do the work and get the learnings on my own?

We get this question frequently from leaders who are getting the hang of the clearing model. It’s a great one because it shows that the leader is seeing that it’s all about her and not about the other person.

Our answer is that you clear to make yourself known and to give others a chance to grow, which you can’t do on your own. People really and truly don’t know what it’s like to be inside of your experience. The clearing process gives them a unique insight into you.

Underlying this process is the mutual understanding that the stories are fundamentally about the person making them up. Still, there’s more learning to be had by the receiver if they’re willing to stay open and curious and to ask themselves how the stories are true.

An example: Carla clears with Sean

From below the line, Carla thinks the issue is about Shawn and him not giving his best effort. She’s convinced that she is right about this and she’s using the clearing to prove to Shawn that he didn’t give his best effort.

She spends lots of time on the facts. She wants to make sure that Shawn knows all the facts. Carla believes the facts prove her stories and justify her feelings, e.g. make her right. This is the core belief of everyone clearing from below the line: facts prove stories and justify feelings. Clearing in this way will inevitably lead to drama and no one will get any real growth.

Clearing from above the line, Carla shares: “A story I make up about you Shawn is that you didn’t give your best effort on that project. When I make up that story I make myself angry and sad, and what I want is to tell you this. Finally, I realize I’m projecting onto you the part of me that didn’t give my best effort, and I want to take responsibility for that.”  

Carla gets that this is all about her and how she sees reality from her point of view. She is letting Shawn know about her.

At this point Shawn can make the choice to check and see how, not if, Carla’s story about him is true. How is it true that he didn’t give his best effort on the project? From this place of curiosity Carla’s choice to clear and reveal herself becomes a learning opportunity for Shawn. He chooses to take responsibility and learn all there is to learn.

From above the line—from radical responsibility and deep commitment to learning—the whole game changes. Both Carla and Shawn get all of their possible learnings.

The clearing model is a simple tool that, when used skillfully, creates radical transformation. Let the clearer beware.


Download this one page Clearing Model handout to read a detailed overview of the process and to reference when you’re clearing with someone.

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