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“Listen to silence, it has so much to say” – RUMI


This was the quote in my journal this morning, my moment of reflection and silence after my yoga and meditation practice, I like to start my days quietly before the conversations of the day begin. This time at the start and end of each day gives me time to really listen to what I need, to what I want, to how I want to be and what I want to do on any given day. It’s my creative time, my thinking time, my planning time and my being time.


Over the last week, two of my Coaching clients have mentioned silence and listening. One made a comment that she finds silence awkward so always fills it, and yet she knows that when she’s calm and listening she can consider the best solutions to problems. The other mentioned that she’d be unable to listen for long periods of time as she likes to give her opinion and debate topics.


Back in 2017 when I first designed The Listening Leader programme, I was hearing a lot about not feeling heard, and yet when we really got down to the issue, a lot of the people not feeling heard were the ones who also weren’t listening.


We talk a lot about the need for good communication skills, and yet in a lot of training or writing on this topic, when we talk about communicating, often we focus on the verbal part; getting our message across, our tone of voice, our stance, our delivery, and we pay little attention to the listening part.


I can, and sometimes do, talk for England. If I’m passionate about a topic I can talk for days on it. I love talking to others, I love asking questions, I’m a curious person, and yet I also know that if I don’t listen, I’m not creating or enhancing relationships. A huge part of my role as a coach is to listen, to hold the space, to pause, to allow time for reflection and for answers to surface. If I spend the entire session talking, I’m not adding any value to my clients.


As a parent, if I don’t listen, my sons will stop talking. I remember my sons being nine years old and when I came in from work I’d bombard them with questions about school, what they had learned, what they had eaten for lunch, what they had enjoyed and so on, and the answers were usually the same. Plus, they felt like it was a daily interrogation and you could tell they were bored each time I asked them. So I tried a different approach and this time no questions. The three of us would go out for a walk with the dog and I’d say nothing. We’d get to the same point of our walk, and they’d start talking about their day, asking questions about which animal would win in a fight, they’d get creative and imaginative, ‘Imagine Mum if ….’, the conversation flowed, I got to hear about their day, we were out together, and they felt heard.


As a partner, I’ve learned that if I want to feel heard, I need to listen to what my partner is saying.


And when it comes to Mental Health conversations, we hear a lot about time to talk, talk about how you are feeling etc. etc, and yet with my own mental health challenges, I’ve found that talking is only half of the challenge. Talking and not being heard, or talking and having other people try to ‘fix’ me, isn’t helpful.


I’ve learned that whether I’m consulting, running workshops or coaching, whilst questions are powerful, giving people the space to say what they need to say, allowing time for silence, and really listening, is much more powerful than always being the one talking. There is of course a time and place to speak, there is always a time and place to say nothing.

For coaches, sometimes the danger is feeling that in order for us to add value and to earn our keep, we need to keep talking, to keep asking questions, to keep digging, and yet our value doesn’t always come from what we say, it’s the space we hold for others and how our clients perceive our value.


I’ve had sessions with clients where I’ve said very little and they’ve found it the most beneficial time they’ve ever spent with someone, and there are times where I talk a lot and this has been the most beneficial.


If you’re not feeling heard right now, consider when the last time was that you really listened.

“Listen to silence, it has so much to say” – RUMI

Kelly


Kelly is an Executive Coach for CEO's and CPO's at kellyswingler.com and Founder of The Chrysalis Crew.


She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.



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©2020 by Kelly Swingler. Part of Chrysalis Group Limited.