Experiencing the power of silence
Updated: May 20, 2022
Silence is golden.
An age old expression we’ve all heard. Yet how often do we ever get to experience it, especially when in conversation?
One of the simplest yet powerful things about coaching people is giving people the space to talk freely and without interruption. Recently during my training I was praising the beauty and power of that space and said to my group “I wish more people could experience it!”
That’s why I’m sharing this exercise with you today.
There is a chance you’ve come across this in the past but it’s framed in the context of a listening exercise. There is no doubt it is, however it’s also a great opportunity to experience the power of silence too. It was created by the amazing Nancy Kline and features in her book Time to Think.
Here’s the exercise. It is really simple and anyone can do it I think if they can follow the rules. I encourage you to give it a go! You could test it out with a partner, a friend, a colleague or family member. Having someone you have some degree of trust with is a good idea because you want to feel the contents of anything that comes up is safe between you.
Before you start there are some simple rules. I would suggest around 15 minutes per person but if you’ve more time feel free to make it longer.
The listener must remain engaged at all times. You must listen to what’s being said and make it clear with good eye contact and body language they have your full attention.
No matter what, no matter how clever your thought do NOT interrupt the thinking partner at any time!
As the listener ask this question:
“What would you like to think about today and what are your thoughts?”
Now listen in the way described above until either the agreed time is up OR the person agrees and verbally indicates they are done thinking. If you are the thinker make it very clear to the listener by saying something like “OK I’m done thinking”.
When they are done if time isn’t up ask them:
“What more do you want to think or feel or say?”
Again the thinker must indicate when they are done. ( If time allows you can keep repeating this last step until the thinker is completely done ).
Not only is it an interesting experience to be listened to for so long without interruption in itself, but so is observing what happens when the thinker will at first appear to run out of thoughts.
It’s in these silences that powerful thoughts emerge.
I encourage you to give it a go or try it again if you haven’t done it in a long time.
I’d be very interested to know how you get on!