The value of silence

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 10

Today I’m continuing the coaching theme for International Coaching Week, and looking at the value of silences.

What’s going on when people don’t immediately respond to a question?

question mark

Whilst recently training a group of teachers in coaching skills, one of the toughest things they found was allowing silences in the coaching conversation. These are the type of silences that follow a thought-provoking question.

Typical behaviour was for them to jump into the silence with another question, or they would rephrase the question. When asked why, they responded with:

  • the silence felt awkward
  • I thought they didn’t understand the question, so I asked another one to help them
  • I thought the question was too hard for them, so I asked an easier one

In response to the last point above, I would suggest the question had probably been pitched perfectly, and was really making them think.

Allowing comfortable silences was something I also found tricky when I first started coaching, but got better at with experience. Now it’s usual, and is one of the key features of a good coaching session.

Silences are valuable thinking time

In our fast-paced world, we don’t often have time to really think about things, to reflect on our successes or what we’ve learned. Coaching provides this. Not just through the questioning, but also through the coach allowing silences following questions. This is when useful learning is taking place in the mind of the person being coached.

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