The Gift of Silence
Silence is who we are...
It is summer here in the northeast of the United States, and I am getting ready to take some time off. As much as I love my work, my clients, students, mentees, and co-workers, it is time for me to go outside, see different sights, and catch a breath.
Space is a vital part of our human experience. It is in breathing that we renew. It is in slowing down that we can observe more deeply. It is in retreating that we can broaden our view. And since coaching is a human-to-human experience, space and silence are intrinsic parts of what we do.
We learn about the role of silence in coaching right from the beginning of our training. Silence gives the client the time to process, to notice, and to listen to themselves more deeply, accessing points within to create an awareness that was not there before. I like to think of silence as this rare gift that, in itself, can transform the coaching conversation, and bring new insight to the coachee.
However, even though we intellectually understand the concept of silence, it usually takes years for us to truly master this skill. We may theoretically understand it, but when it comes time for us to engage in coaching, the idea leaves us completely. We end up in this automatic mode where we are filling every space with sound bites, verbally processing without intention, stumbling with our words, stacking our questions, and often interrupting the client’s line of thought.
That is because silence is not just a technique. For us to use silence effectively, we first need to live it. Again, coaching is a human-to-human experience. If we want our clients to access their resourcefulness and potential, we must first show up in our humanity and authenticity as well. And if silence is not a part of who we are, we will struggle with this concept.
That is why the role of self-care, personal foundation, and having a reflective practice is so crucial to the development of a coach. We cannot simply expect our clients to go into their Who, to look beyond, to stretch, and see new possibilities if we are not willing to practice this ourselves.
How rested are you right now? When was the last time you took a break? What is your self-care routine? When did you last spoke with a coach – not to practice, but to be coached? When did you go for a walk, or look at the sky, or notice the breeze touching your face? When was the last time you had a belly laugh, or looked deep inside another person’s eyes?
We live in a culture where being busy has become a badge of honor. The busier we are, the more successful we must be. But we all know how silly this idea truly is. That is why coaching is so powerful. Because it gives the client an evidence-based structured space to process what they could not in the grind of their day.
But coaching is not just theory. Coaching is not just a methodology. Coaching is not just about competencies and markers. We can all be so articulate about coaching, but can we truly live it?
That is why I am taking a break this month. It is time for me to access my silence within, and to create new space for myself, so when I come back, I can be even more present to you. I encourage you to do the same.
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As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?