The Sound of Silence

They say he’s so good with words, he always knows what to say. He could sell ice to Eskimos, convince you that the day is dark and the night is sunny and prove the Earth is flat. We all heard of someone like this, at some point in life. Maybe you are one. The underlying theme is that you must have a skillful talkative attitude in order to be a great salesperson, entrepreneur, business person.

I used to be and think like that. I was feeling the urge to fill up space with masterful persuasion techniques and powerful narrative so that I dazzle my discussion partner, my prospect, anybody. 

Then, I learned about active listening. It was the new thing in sales, attentive listening and preparing the smart answers in the meantime. Letting my prospect talk and taking the time to create strategies with solutions or counter-proposals.

About 8 years ago, I learned the true power of silence.

When I started training to become a coach, the first module of learning was about co-creating the coaching relationship. The first prerequisite for being able to do that is embracing Silence. Offering silence, respecting silence, listening to silence.

At first, I thought this is crazy. How can I help someone through silence? How can I deliver masterful coaching techniques if I don’t say anything? It just didn’t make sense…

The training structure included about 30% knowledge and 70% practice. I loved that. During each training day, we had at least 6-8 practice rounds by peer coaching. I will always remember the first day when Alain (our Master Coach and facilitator) told us that we needed to practice coaching for 8 minutes and we were not allowed to say anything.

It was the longest 8 minutes of my life…It felt like an eternity or more! I remember talking to myself: This is impossible, I’ll never be a masterful coach, I just can’t be attentive and present and not saying anything for 8 minutes!

It was so hard to not fill up the space, to focus on my client instead of thinking what to say next, to offer and help create space for new ideas to emerge, instead of recycling old ones.

Then, slowly, I started to get it. Like always, the more you practice, the better you are. I discovered the beauty of silence. The more I focused on being present, the easier it was to not say anything.

So, in fact I didn’t have to force myself to shut up, but to have an attentive presence, to truly be there for my client. Everything became so clear now.

For me it kind of developed in three development stages:

Phase I

I realized that silence is actually space in my client’s mind. Think of it as fertile land, not cultivated/occupied by other crops, so that new, fresh crops may emerge. If I support my client to create more space, there are more options available for her, creativity can develop more. So by offering my attentive presence, I can truly give my client a productive framework.

Phase II

I learned how I can help my client create her own silence. We all have our stories, most of them on auto-repeat, always having the same path, the same ending. Many times, not a desirable outcome. By interrupting the story – the pattern and proposing a different frame of reference, I helped my client pause. New space is created. Silence prevails.

Phase III

I learned how to listen to my client’s silence. Silence is not empty, it is not a void. Like a fertile land that holds many seeds awaiting the right conditions to spawn, silence is thriving with new beginnings, new opportunities.

So, if you’re a salesperson, business owner or just want to develop better personal and professional relationships, embracing silence and being truly present can make a huge difference.

I’d love to hear how you’ve tried this and what results have you noticed.

Have an amazing day!

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