Silence- how is it used in Coaching?

This an extract from an exercise I did as part of my coaching course with ITS.  We explored what silence did for/to us, and how silence was different in different contexts.  I found it fascinating, and it really helped me focus on the how and why of my coaching style.

Being Silent in a room full of people who are also silent.

I am aware of where everyone is, and what they are doing; aware that I equate stillness with silence; what does silence mean to me generally?  Time to think, invent, fret (sometimes), relax, fret some more, invent some more.

Sometimes words just drop in from nowhere.  Silence creates a vacuum that sucks thought in.

Being Silent with one other silent person

I listen to his silence rather than my own, my ‘bubble’ encompasses him, it gets a little bigger and fits maybe a foot beyond each of us, and I can tune out other people.

Shared silence: four people

As with one other person, but larger and more intricate.  I can listen to the group silence, or each individual’s, they overlap and catch on each other like the scales in wool when you spin it.  Together the silence is stronger; there is an interaction even if we don’t look at each other.  It is like holding a shallow bowl full to the brim with water, in perfect balance.

a shallow bowl full to the brim

A shallow bowl full to the brim copyright C Potts 2010

Morning, just woken.

Cat at my elbow sodden with sleep moulded to me.  Silence here is about stretching, body and hearing, checking in, where is everyone, do I need to get up yet, and retracting, warmth, the cat, no rush.

45 minute Silence

I like silence, I really do, I work well in silence, but I can’t do nothing in silence, I fidget and I fret.  Actually thinking about it, I often sing while I’m working, so perhaps silence isn’t as literal as I think, and also, when not singing, I ‘think sing’ which I can do at the same time as thinking about something else, for instance right now, keep it light enough to travel is wafting about in there.

45 minute silence 2nd attempt

In the garden.  There are lots of birds singing, I try to differentiate them.  Nothing in the garden is still.  I count different shades of colour, ten minutes later I’m still finding new ones. So even though I know there are x number of different plants in flower at the moment, and I know there are loads of different greens in the leaves I don’t see all of them unless I look.

How does this inform my coaching?

Silence creates a vacuum that sucks thought in.

Sometimes words just drop in from nowhere.

I don’t see all of them unless I look.

By keeping silence (interesting, keeping silence, not keeping silent) I give space to the client to go beyond the planned rehearsed ‘bleeding obvious’ response, but the unexpected blurted out response is JUST as important- it hasn’t been edited to conform to some kind of expectation.  And I may find a metaphor dropping in for use if the content is too tricky.

The level of attention is directly proportionate to the input received, don’t listen don’t hear; don’t assume that because its similar= it’s the same (agenda/experience…);  can’t hear what’s being said if thinking about something else.

I listen to his silence rather than my own, my ‘bubble’ encompasses him, it gets a little bigger and fits maybe a foot beyond each of us, and I can tune out other people.

And if other people weren’t there, it would be more compact and even more attentive.  Because we hadn’t spoken, I was listening to the silence, not to my version of his possible thoughts.

They overlap and catch on each other like the scales in wool when you spin it.

This is a dancing in the moment.  Connection at a distance, respecting other people’s space, but making theirs and my own greater by the principle of community even when unspoken.  Not sure what I mean here, but I know when I feel it.

Together the silence is stronger; there is an interaction even if we don’t look at each other.  It is like holding a shallow bowl full to the brim with water, in perfect balance.

See above, but also the bowl of water is about not intruding, because it would get spilt.

Silence here is about stretching, (body and hearing,) checking in,

I didn’t mean mental stretching when I wrote this, but it is what I mean in a coaching context.

So a final thought: Silence is an activity in itself, which provokes thought, and sometimes action.

Copyright Cherry Potts 2007-2010

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About Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a published fiction writer, publisher, event organiser, photographer, cardmaker, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She is an enthusiastic singer. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.
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