Why is it that so many of us find silence hard to deal with?
As a coach I work with so many people who find their heads constantly filled with “chatter” much of which is negative or downright destructive.
These internal conversations have the power to colour our emotions and influence our decisions both small and those of huge consequence.
When we get to the heart of the matter their conversations are usually based on beliefs created long ago out of a perception which is out of wack with reality and serves no useful purpose now.
Getting to the heart of the matter is often about creating a safe space for the client to recognise and understand for themselves what is going on. It is then that coaching has the potential to help true transformation to take place. I believe that one of the most powerful tools we have as a coach is that of creating the safe silence.
It is so tempting to fill the quiet space with another question or a comment, to think that as a coach I need to be doing something to help. Silence is the hardest work and often the most rewarding. It helps to remind oneself that the process is entirely about the clients agenda. No matter how difficult you find it to be quiet, it is not about you or your needs. I believe it is my role to create a safe and open environment for clients to work in. I see my role is to offer the right questions to prompt and help their thinking.
It is here that all the skills of holding rapport, creating trust and actively listening are paramount. Many clients are afraid of silence yet it is often in that space that they are able to identify and face their demons and to realise they have the resources at their disposal. It is then that they have true choices about how they want to live their lives.
When clients are quiet, watch their face, their body language, their breathing. All of these offer clues as to what is happening internally. When you feel that things are stuck and you need to intervene in some way a tentative word can be much more effective than long winded responses which interrupt the silence and fill the space needed for them to think and process.
When they tell me that they don’t know or they can’t think, I ask “just imagine you did know for a moment. What would it be?” or “ just say the first thing which pops into your mind, what ever it is, is fine”, “ Just take a deep breath, relax and let what ever wants to come into your mind. Let’s just go with that for the moment”. Very often the response offers a way forward.
I use minimal prompts like “…..so that means….”, “…. You feel that…..” “ …..and……” “ …..so…..” so that my questions don’t direct their thinking along a route which is mine rather than theirs. It ensures they know you are there and listening. One client described that she felt as if I was holding her hand as she went down a dark alley.
Creating a safe silence out side sessions can also be useful for clients. At times I suggest that clients to create a “Me Time” with silence in their daily lives between our sessions. For those who find silence daunting, a couple of minutes are enough to start with. The timing of these interludes doesn’t matter what does matter is for them to create an appointment in their busy diaries with themselves. A short time where they can turn off the phone, computer, TV and radio where they can switch off the outer world and just be with themselves, taking a walk or sitting quietly by themselves. It has had amazing results. Giving yourself permission to take some time out to nurture and feed your soul is really hard for some but well worth the effort.
It gives the old saying that “Silence is golden” even greater resonance.