This blog post was inspired by a question asked on a community call.
Have you ever started a coaching session and realized that your group was, well… quiet? Noticeably so? Many group coaches have been there. As you notice the quiet, your mind begins to jump from thought to thought: "Am I doing a bad job? Are they bored? Do they feel disappointed? Why is no one answering my questions? Is it me? Am I a bad coach?" And so on the spiral can go.
Silence is golden and one of your best tools for coaching, you don’t want it to disappear! Getting comfortable with silence yourself is your first step! In fact, it might be more helpful for your group members for you to be quiet than for you to jump in!
Let's look at what you can do to embrace healthy silence and help smooth the tension that can come with the awkward type of quiet. In this blog post, we explore ways to encourage openness and sharing.
Especially early in a group coaching process, it can help to create smaller breakout conversations and providing guiding questions before bringing the whole group back together. This allows your group members to feel less "on the spot" and it also allows cohort members to build a deeper bond. Once they "know someone else”, cohort members are more likely to feel a sense of ease when they are in the larger group.
Allow participants a moment to reflect before answering any questions. As you move through the session, ask people to take a minute to reflect, and let them know that they’ll be asked to share their thoughts with the group. This way, they have a time to plan out their thoughts rather than being put on the spot.
It's possible the group does have some unmet needs or unresolved concerns. That's okay! Take the time to speak with the group directly about what they need from you or the group and the experience they want to create. You can ask them to define what this quiet moment means for them.
You can also check in and ask what they would like to see/hear from each other in order to be creators. This should echo some of the norms you co-created as a group at the start of the experience.
It's easy to allow moments of quiet to destabilize and derail you, but they don't have to! Quiet moments can be indicators that the group is processing a thought or question or that you have touched on something meaningful so it's important to read the room and gauge what is needed in the moment. And of course, if you’re not sure, you can always ask the group directly!
Here are some ideas to create environments where the awkward type of quiet doesn’t happen:
We’d love to hear what else you do when your group is quiet. Let us know in the comments.