The value of silence

Thursday, 10th February, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 10

bigstock-Emoticon-with-adhesive-bandage-29321573Today 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?


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.

debbie019 fThank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in you.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.