Use Of Silence – A Powerful Coaching Skill

The use of silence is a powerful coaching skill, all part of your ability to listen effectively as a coach. It is a skill which can take a while to feel comfortable with and to master, often feeling that silence indicates that we have run out of questions or that we are making our coachee feel uncomfortable.

What are the benefits of the use of silence?

You may be met with silence when you ask a question – this could be that your client has not understood your question or they are thinking through the answer. Don’t be tempted to dive in straight away with another question or rephrase your first. You could have just asked the most powerful thought-provoking question which has made a huge impact on your coachee and allowing silence gives your coachee the space to think through their response to the full.

You may also want to allow silence after your coachee has responded to a question allowing them to think through their answer more fully, to consider what answer they have already given or to explore further options.

For you as a coach pauses in the dialogue can really help you to listen to the coachee and pick up their emotions, feelings and the mood of the coachee. If you are listening at this level and giving your coachee the space to think, then your coachee will feel listened to and will be more likely to open up when they do speak. You will also be better able to gauge what questions to ask next.

Tips for the use of silence in coaching

  • Start becoming aware of your own comfort with silence…are you someone who feels they have to fill in every gap in a conversation? If you are, practice putting a few seconds silence into your social conversations allowing others to talk further.
  • If your coachee doesn’t respond immediately to a question don’t be tempted to dive straight in, instead wait a few seconds before rephrasing or clarifying that your question has been understood.
  • Pause for a few seconds after your coachee has responded to your question to see if they have anything further to add.
  • Be particularly aware of using silence effectively, perhaps leave a few seconds more than your usual pause if you have asked a particularly thought-provoking or challenging question.
  • Use this silence to listen to your coachee – what are they thinking, feeling and what are they not saying?

Recommended Further Reading:

Co-active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl (Paperback - 15 Feb 2007)

The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to the Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching by Julie Starr (Paperback - 8 Nov 2007)

Coaching Skills: A Handbook by Jenny Rogers (Paperback - 1 Mar 2008)

See Also:-

Effective Listening Techniques
3 Levels Of listening
Active Listening
More Coaching Skills
Coaching Tools

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