In coach training you’re made very aware of the impact and value of silence. In fact I wrote a little about what this feels like as a practitioner earlier this year here in “The Silent Performance“. Recent events and experiences make me want to add to that earlier writing.
When we find ourselves in coaching and not filling the space with words it is true that there is silence. Part of any coaches development is to become comfortable with that silence and to resist what seems to be a natural urge to fill it with words. It’s referred to as a “coaching silence”.
The duration of silence creates a tension that does indeed help things shift for the client. It gives them time to process, think and reflect – a powerful process that then creates something new and different. That process is as fundamental to the joint venture that is coaching as conversation is. Yet I feel there are limitations dependent on the means of coaching not just the skill and comfort of the practitioner. For example…
Face to face, how long can you hold a “coaching silence”?
How would that differ if you were coaching by telephone?
What would it be like if you were coaching online?
Recently as part of my continuing exploration of using Twitter in coaching, my client and I held a silence of 7 minutes. It created a real shift for them. Could we have held 7 minutes of silence if we were face to face in a room? I seriously wonder as I know our physical presence creates interferences.
So I’m beginning to think that we need to move beyond talking about “coaching silence”. A few reasons come to mind :
What we are really talking about is space and silence. We don’t have to sex it up for coaching.
Using space and silence as a powerful conversational method has application in many other situations, not just coaching.
By making it a “thing” we potentially run into self made barriers when we look to new mediums/channels for coaching.
Silence and conversation are not two separate parts of coaching they are the whole part of coaching that is the thinking environment that we want to create.
We can continue to talk about “coaching silence” as a thing if we want to. It’s possibly quite harmless. I won’t be though.
I want to talk about the space(s) we create in coaching that transcend mediums or channels of delivery. I want us to explore and to talk about the whole that is more accurately called the thinking environment. That is what facilitates change.