So, how long can you wait before breaking a silence? Of course each individual’s tolerance level is different and, more than that, silence often prompts a whole host of gremlins to jump onto our shoulder. Was my question not sharp enough? Should I offer a follow up question? Have I lost them? What did I miss? What time is it…?! And yet all of these questions divert us from noticing what is actually shouting to be heard. I found a wonderful quote the other day “Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything” it was attributed to John Grossman. With this as a lens I find it’s possible to be much more curious about how the client is, in their silence.
You don’t have to be an NLP practitioner to notice eye movements and the slant of their head. Are they searching? Reflecting? Rehearsing?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to feel the impact of their energy..? Are they still or fidgety? If they are still – are they still and stuck or still and contemplative? If they are fidgety – are they energised positively or is frustration brewing? What is their level of engagement, can you feel they are working or does it feel like they are avoiding?
And what about our energy, if we tune into our own sense of them, what do you notice is occurring in you? What do you notice you are drawn to in their story? What sensations are you experiencing (beside your own anxiety!!) that might hint at what thoughts are unfolding?
Of course it is tempting to use this heightened awareness to craft a “clever question” so that you can re-engage in the dialogue and demonstrate just how fully you were listening. But for me, that is not the point. For me, by being curious in this way, I keep my energy away from my greedy gremlins who steal attention from my client. At some point the client will remember that I am there and re-connect with me, when they do so I am there. Ready. Waiting. They know I’ve not been far away, and yet I haven’t intruded… it was their private journey and they seem to know what they need from me next. Often there is no need for me to say anything, they lead the way. Sometimes they return my gaze with a sense of expectancy – an invitation to speak. Perhaps. My favourite question at this point is … “so where has that taken you to?” . I notice with interest what is similar and what is different about where I imagined they had travelled to. And of course those comparisons are not important either.
Old habits and all that. What I notice in myself is a desire to bring value to the client, to earn my keep. For many years I felt value was inextricably bound up with the questions that I asked. Yet we know that organisations can be noisy places. Leaders are typically surrounded by people who have an opinion, people who offer challenge … some people even offer support! However, as the pace of life and work quickens, the time for pause and reflection becomes more scarce. So how do the time poor, sort through the wheat and the chaff to work out what they really think for themselves? And so I am becoming more and more confident that when silence falls, the most valuable thing I can do is to offer my quiet. Sometimes it’s relatively easy, sometimes it’s actually quite tough. And then when I am truly quiet in myself, I hear so much more than the silence.
If you’re a coach that struggles with silence, please do get in touch. I’d love to help you explore what habits you might need to let go of in order to find your own quiet :O)
Call : Michelle 07717 122950