What to do when a coaching group is quiet

This blog post was inspired by a question asked on a community call.

The Sound of Silence

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.

Break The Ice With Smaller Breakouts

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.

Offer Reflective Moments

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.

Ask the Group Openly

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.

Believe in the Process

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!

A Few Ideas

Here are some ideas to create environments where the awkward type of quiet doesn’t happen:

  • When you have an initial conversation with each group member to ensure they are a great fit for the group, make sure to let them know that they will need to participate. You can use the questions we share in our pre-registration questionnaire guide.
  • Before the group begins, make clear all the expectations you have and share with potential members that they will get out what they put in!
  • During the session, perhaps you are making assumptions about what the group needs. Check in as to the direction they’d like the session to take and how they will direct the experience.
  • One of our alumni, Amy Krymkovski also shared that sometimes, it’s simply a question of giving the group members enough time to transition from their previous activity to being present. To this end, she sometimes invites her group members to sit with their eyes closed and listen to an instrumental song.

We’d love to hear what else you do when your group is quiet. Let us know in the comments.