This is one of my favorite memes:
Let’s eat Grandma vs Let’s eat, Grandma. Commas save lives.
For coaches, the pause (comma) is key. The pause ensures that we listen until the very end of what’s being said by our clients, and then formulate our response. It also gives us time to think, so that we can respond to all of what we have heard.
In typical conversations, we might be thinking about what we’re going to say long before the other person has stopped talking. It takes conscious retraining to unlearn this practice. Our students say it feels awkward at first, sitting in that space and in that silence.
Yet in our debrief sessions, their practice clients frequently say it was a positive experience, and they felt heard and that the coach was processing what the client said.
Once they believe it’s actually okay to have silence, new coaches find they really like that time to process in the moment. It frees them up to really listen, to change the habit of formulating their response while the other person is talking.
As a coach, how do you calm and focus your own mind in that silence? First, set aside any conversations you may be having with yourself. Some coaches find it helpful to jot a word or two on a notepad to capture themes or important elements as the client shares. Then in that silence, read those words as a form of review and a way to quiet that “monkey mind.”
Be open and transparent with your client about what you are doing. One student asked, “Thank you, that was really helpful. May I just take a moment to think through what you said?” That gave her the freedom to really think and not be caught up in that chatter in her mind.
Practicing the pause has such a positive impact on the quality of the coach’s listening, on the relationship between coach and client, and on the power of the questions the coach may ask.