How Comfortable Are You With Silence?
Guest Post by Sandra McDowell – This post previously posted on Sandra’s Blog:  Lead With Questions

What is your silence threshold? A few seconds, a minute, a few minutes? Personally speaking, becoming comfortable with silence has been a journey, one on which I have come a long way; yet, I still have much to discover. As a strong advocate of the effectiveness of the coach approach to leadership, I have been working hard to manage my natural tendency to try to problem solve for others and ‘rescue’ people from the seemingly awkwardness of their silence. I now recognize silence in conversations as ‘golden’ and a powerful precursor for solution based thinking.

When you ask others a question and they do not respond immediately, how quickly do you fill the space with your words? What would happen if you waited for them to respond? If you can stop yourself from filling the space after you ask a question, powerful thinking and clarity will ensue. How much silence can you cope with before you need to rescue someone from their silence? Who is more uncomfortable, you or them? These are important questions to reflect upon.

When silence happens, instead of rescuing someone with an easier question or my own thoughts, I have been training myself to leverage my curiosity. I do this by considering what is going through their mind and what has caused the silence. Are they reflecting? Considering options? Processing? Have they had an aha moment?

Learning to resist the urge to ‘solve’ problems or ‘rescue’ others from awkwardness has taken practice, but the impact for me has been profound. I have discovered that when I do not fill the space with my thoughts and give others the time they need to respond, their respect and trust for our relationship increases, and their solution based thinking is heightened.

In my experience, more clarity follows silence.

To break the silence would interrupt others’ thinking. I have learned to resist my temptation to rephrase the question or ask another question, but instead allow the person I’m speaking with to process, think, and respond. I assure you, it’s not easy at first, but it gets easier with practice. Try it, you’ll witness its power.

People often ask if there is a point where you should say something. I believe that in most cases there is not, but it depends. You shouldn’t break silence to rescue someone, solve his or her problem, or make things less awkward. If you must say something, phrases that could prompt further comment include “tell me more,” or “what, if anything, is becoming clearer for you?” Eventually, if the person does not have a response to your question, or is uncomfortable responding, they will let you know.

Silence is golden when you’ve asked a question of someone. I always tell new coaches that one indication they are using powerful questions is if their coaches takes some time to consider their response before responding. Better yet, if that someone typically talks a lot but becomes silent, solution based thinking has definitely been engaged.

Welcome silence into your conversations. When you hear it, you’ll know powerful thinking is taking place, and more clarity is on the horizon.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra McDowell  has extensive communication, marketing, coaching and leadership experience. She has studied Marketing, attained a Master of Arts in Leadership, and received a Certified Executive Coach (CEC) designation. She was a past recipient of the Credit Union Central of Canada’s National Young Leaders Award, and a World Council of Credit Union’s Young Leader Award. Sandra is certified to facilitate Expedition Coaching® and Legacy Leadership® workshops for small or large groups. Sandra is passionate about leadership development, coaching, corporate culture and employee engagement.  Contact Sandra for more information about executive coaching, leadership and speaking engagements at mcdowell.thinkbig@gmail.com.  

Follow Sandra’s Blog:  LeadWithQuestions.com

MORE RECENT POSTS

Survival Tips for March Madness 2020

 Guest Post by Donna Brighton While NCAA basketball has been cancelled, we are all dealing with a different...

How Do You Lead When Life Throws You a Curve-ball (like Covid-19)?

Guest Post by Neal Black As I write this I am sitting at home, away from my team, not quite in lock-down mode...

What can we do together to make this our Finest Hour?

John F. Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and 40 year correspondent for The New York Times wrote in...

Leaders Solve Problems!

Do you long for carefree days without any problems?  Don’t we all?    Who might you list as the...

Mindfulness of Others

Excerpted from Chapter 27 of Daniel Montgomery’s just released “How to Be Present in an Absent...

A Golden Opportunity on a Golden Anniversary

Guest Post by Debby Thompson Excitement filled the air as we climbed the stairs to the restaurant’s upper...

Successful Leaders Ask These 12 Powerful Questions

Guest Post by Jennifer Ledet I’ve read that you should never ask a question for which you don’t already...

4 thoughts on “How Comfortable Are You With Silence?

  1. Michael Lapointe says:

    Silence could also be reflecting what type of personality you are. Extroverts tend to respond faster to questioning while introverts need time to analyze what is being said and will pause before answering. If you rush for an answer from an introvert, they may simply clam up or give an answer they will not be happy with since they were not given enough time to come up with the best solution in their head before they answer.

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Michael – you are so right! And sometimes even extroverts (like me) need more time to respond! 🙂

  2. Susie Watt says:

    Introverts need more processing time to respond to a question. Silence and time are deeply appreciated.

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Susie – great point – well said!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.