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Coaching with silence and the ineffable virtue of being listened to without interruption

Source | | lucaturconi

When is the last time you sat in silence for a few minutes, reflecting on an important question, in the presence of another person? When is the last time you did this, knowing you would not be interrupted?

I never truly experienced the power of “active silence[1]” in coaching. Not until I attended a workshop led by John Gray and Kay Young from the AoEC on “Coaching with Silence” at least, at the beginning of 2021. During the first break-out session we were invited to reflect and discuss in small groups about our “interest and energy around silence, in life and in coaching”.

Seldom, have I explored this question before. However, it revealed a new awareness for me: silence is something I crave much more than I imagined.

With the current human existence in western societies often defined by more stimulation, more distraction and more “things to process” than we can cope with, stating that silence is something human being yearn for may sound obvious.

Yet, silence for some can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially for individuals operating in organisations where silence is not culturally invited, but rather is something that must be filled.

I am reminded of something Nancy Kline said – that “the quality of everything human beings do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first”. Whilst cultural unlearning is not an easy gig, if leaders experience the power of active silence in coaching perhaps they might become more comfortable with silence themselves?.. and not feel the need to fill the space in any form of dialogue, be it team meetings or 1:1 conversations?

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