In health coaching, as in society, we just don’t seem to like silence! We’ll do just about anything to avoid silence. We keep talking without giving the other person a chance to talk. We interrupt. We fill in the silence with fillers like “um” or “uh”. Here’s the truth: those pauses in communication can be one of the most powerful communication tools we have.
— Rob Jolles, jolles.com
Last week at one of my trainings on motivational interviewing in health care, the “power of the pause” came out as one of the key “take aways” for a nurse who was attending. I always provide an opportunity for participants to provide what was a “precious jewel” that they will remember for the day and describe to the group. For Jane, it was the power of the pause.
Fills in the Void
Why is the power of the pause so effective in motivational interviewing and health coaching? Because it gives the opportunity for the patient/client to fill in the void. During conversations, a pause, a time when no one is saying anything, feels uncomfortable, awkward and quite frankly, a waste of valuable time. I could be providing knowledge to this person, we often think!
Typically, if we, the coach, the health practitioner, are quiet, who will fill in the void? The patient/client. And most likely, it is rich thoughts the patient/client provide and often realizing something for the first time. In addition, saying those thoughts out loud is powerful and helpful in the change process. Dr. William Miller. Motivationalinterviewing.org
Pausing Shows Respect
Pausing after someone has spoken shows respect to the other person, indicating that you are taking into account their ideas. (Source)
You are giving them space to think, ponder and go deeper into their why. This translates into a deeper more meaningful conversation about change. This is designated as the first and most essential process of motivational interviewing; engagement.
- Just stop talking. Think of WAIT. Better known in my trainings as WHY AM I TALKING. When we stop talking, the patient/client will feel the need to fill the “awkward silence”. In that way, we learn more about the other person.
- Pause. Instead of repeating “um”, “like”, “ok”, “you know”, just pause, take a breath and give the other person time to fill in the pause. They will understand as you are genuinely curious, interested in their story and their “why”. With this, they will feel more comfortable to share their story.
In a time when we think, more is better. In communication and changing the conversation, less many be more. Less talking and more listening on our part as health practitioners. Remember, those pauses in communication can be one of the most powerful communication tools we have. The POWER of the pause.
Transform conversations. Transform healthcare.
Dr. Becky Lang