Get comfortable with silence whilst coaching – overcome your coaching sedatephobia

grayscale photo of woman doing silent hand sign

How often do you use silence whilst coaching? And I’m not talking about that micro-pause you take mid-conversation, I’m talking about the long pause. The type of pause that almost feels uncomfortable. The type of pause where you slowly start to wince, wondering if its been too long and you need to step in and say something urgently…to remove the awkward tumbleweed moment you perceive to be happening.

If you’ve not experienced a silence whilst coaching that made you feel this way then you’re either; already comfortable with silence, go you for getting passed the awkward phase! Or you still have silence-phobia, more professionally known as sedatephobia (fear of silence).

Benefits of silence whilst coaching

As uncomfortable as those seconds can feel for you, for the individual it can be powerful. When you ask a coaching question, you’re asking the coachee to reflect inwardly as to what that means to them and how it connects to their own values set. This inner dialogue can be vast, and to formulate a response that is meaningful can take time.

Those silent seconds are powerful. In-fact often, more powerful than any additional dialogue or questioning you may interject with. When you jump in and ask another question, you stop that inner dialogue dead. As you give the individual yet another thing to try to process on top of the original question.

The clues are in the eyes

You might be thinking, that sounds great but what if I don’t say anything and they don’t say anything and were both sat in silence?

The main tip to overcome this is to note their body language, specifically their eyes.  The eyes are often referred to as the gateway to the soul, and just by simply paying attention to their eye accessing queues you will know when it’s the right time to speak again.

When you ask a coaching question, the coachees eyes will look various ways as they recall information from different parts of their brain. The trick here is that once their eyes leave your contact, don’t ask any further questions or say anything else until their eyes return to you. The lack of eye contact and conversation suggests an inner dialogue is happening that should not be interrupted.

There has been a few times I’ve even held the silence longer than that. It’s a good way to check if there is anything else happening internally that they haven’t yet shared. Mostly when I use this technique there has been an additional information brought to the coaching session that I wasn’t expecting, as they’ve had the time to think deeply.

Steps to overcome

If you’re wondering how to overcome your fear of silence whilst coaching, fear not. I’ve got five simple steps for you below:

  • Get out of your own head – Remember coaching is not about you, its about the individual. Whilst the silence might feel uncomfortable for you, coaching is about reflection and growth and this happens internally first.
  • Perception is reality – If you believe that silence is an uncomfortable part of coaching, then the self-fulfilling prophecy will make it so. Change your perception to change your reality.
  • Take a drink – If you are struggling to say nothing, take a deep breath or take a drink. Anything that stops your impulsive desire to speak.
  • Notice body language – The body can sometimes tell us just as much as the mouth. Whilst the coachee is reflecting take the time to notice what’s happening with their body language, their eyes, breath or stance.
  • Remember that silence is also the sign of a good coaching question – If the coachee is taking their time to reflect on what it means for them then that’s a good thing.

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


The sooner you become comfortable with silence, the faster your coaching practice will move to the next level, and your coachees results will improve 10-fold.

Next time you’re coaching, turn that micro-pause into a macro-pause.

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