Abintus Coaching Resources

Observe any meeting and you will experience the fact that people don’t like silence. It’s too uncomfortable for them so they step in to speak or look awkwardly at each other. Using silence in coaching is a very powerful tool in different ways, but first they have to overcome their fear of using it!

Silence is golden

Using silence is a powerful tool encouraging the coachee to think and consider what they said. ‘Forcing them to have reflective time’. Silence can be beneficial to the coach. Silence from the coachee is something to be aware of and attempt to understand why it might be happening.

New coaches can have the tendency to feel that they are not being effective unless they are ‘launching’ questions at their coachees. Coachees feel under pressure and feel as though they are being interviewed (or interrogated!). In doing so, the coach is also not giving the coachee time to think and reflect on their situation or their own thoughts.

Silence provides those opportunities. The coachee can consider their thoughts, answers and approaches more deeply

The coach can either arbitrarily give the coachee time to think after they have asked a question. Or, they can identify and utilise a key moment to allow the silence to happen.

Having asked a powerful question, the coach should leave the silence to ‘hang’, giving the coachee thinking time.

Allowing the silence to happen, giving the coachee processing and thinking time

The skill for the coach comes from not stepping in, instead allowing the silence to happen and unfold. Allowing more time than they would usually in conversation. The coach needs to bite their lip, or count to 10, to help avoid their normal temptation to interrupt. Not interrupting doesn’t just happen it needs to be practiced.

They may see the coachees body language change as the they consider the question, also observing potential emotions to come out via their body language.

For the coach they can use the silence to manage the conversation and gather their own thoughts, thinking about where they might take the conversation next. They can also use this silence to reflect themselves, observing how they are feeling in the moment. Examining if they are wanting to step in what is causing that, where is it coming from?

Stepping in to understand their thinking

If nothing is forthcoming from the coachee after a short while, the coach can then use another approach. The chances are that the coachee is thinking and processing information and feelings, they simply aren’t sharing it with the coach.

The coach can then ask a question similar to:

I notice you are quiet, just share with me what you are thinking about, it doesn’t have to be in any order, or make sense, just share your thoughts…

The purpose here is to encourage the coachee to ‘come to the table’, if trust has been built up the coachee may be prepared to share and explore their thinking with you.

A benefit to the coach too

Silence is also has benefits for the coach. It gives the coach breathing space, time to mentally step back and reflect. Time to process what the coachee has just said and what it means.

It also brings the opportunity to consider other lines of thinking and exploration.

The silence might only be for a few moments, but it is still valuable and coaches should learn to embrace it for themselves and not just the coachee.

Silence might on the surface a place of discomfort, but within it comes powerful learning and growth. The coach that masters it brings a valuable depth and dimension to their coaching conversations.

If you have found this resource useful, contact Abintus to see how we can further support you or your organisation in its coaching and leadership activities.