When you’re in conversation do you enjoy moments of silence? Or do you find it uncomfortable and jump in to fill the space?
Silence leaves room for thinking and reflection. It can give the other person time to consider their reply. It can help to build trust, confidence and (somewhat counterintuitively) rapport. It can also be helpful for creativity and problem solving as leaving space can help us dig deeper and come up with our own creative solutions rather than rushing for the first obvious idea.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of chatting on a Lucidity Network webinar with Katie Colombus, assistant director of communications at Samaritans and author of ‘How to Listen’ . One of our discussion points was the value of silence. Here’s my key take-aways from the webinar;
- If, as a listener you fill the silence and jump in with solutions instead of listening and asking questions that help the person come to a solution, you are disempowering them and implying that they can’t find the solution themselves. So even when it comes from a place of wanting to help, you’re actually doing the opposite. Leaving silence is important in empowering people to find their own solutions.
- Rather than jumping in to ‘fix’ something, leave silence. Let the person think and reflect. You might then ask some open questions (a question that can’t be answered with a yes or a no) to encourage a conversation. For example, ‘How did you feel about that?’ or ‘Tell me what you thought of that?’ or ‘What did that mean for the situation?’
- If you find it difficult to leave silence, have a go at setting yourself silence targets. For example, at your next meeting you might set yourself the target of not filling any silences, if you’re a manager, at your next 1:1 with members of your team, set a target to only ask open questions and don’t ‘fix’ anything.
- Start to notice when you want to jump in and do something else instead, for example, count to 5, or take several deep breaths, or my personal favourite (thank you Vanessa Longley) is to pop a Rolo in your mouth (other sweets allowed) and don’t speak until you’ve finished it.
I’d love to hear your thought and tips on listening and silence.
If you’d like to watch the reply of the ‘How to be brilliant at listening’ webinar you can watch it at the Lucidity Network.
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