The first was during a one-to-one coaching session. Actually it was a two-to-one since both owners of the business wanted to use their monthly time with me and meet together. During our conversation one owner asked her partner a question. His eyes immediately moved left indicating he was contemplating her question and needed to think about it. Unfortunately she did not recognize this cue and immediately asked him another question. I called for a timeout sharing with her an opportunity missed.
When you have asked a great question that causes the other person to pause, to think and to access their subconscious this is a good thing. You have asked a question no one else has ever asked them before otherwise they would have an immediate response for you. Notice this. Be silent. Let the other person think and then listen carefully to their answer. It will most likely be an “ah ha” for you and something you did not know about them or the way they think or their belief system or on and on.
The hardest aspect of this for most people is being silent while the other person thinks. Silence can be uncomfortable but it is so powerful. Making the other person talk next should be a goal of yours in most conversations. This not only makes the other person feel important but they feel like they are being listened to, which they are.
The second time this happened was during my monthly meeting leading my key executive group. These are VP level executives in companies. The same thing happened while we were discussing a decision facing one of the members. We ask a lot of what we call curious questions of the member with the issue to get an insight as to what the issue is, what they have done about it so far, what they feel their options are and what feedback they would like from their fellow members. After asking a very good question and causing the member with the issue to pause the questioner broke the silence with another question while the member was thinking about the question that had caused him to go silent. Again I called a timeout and encouraged them to pay attention to body language during a conversation and how much more you can learn by not filling the void of silence with words.
I encourage you to be conscious of how people are reacting during your conversations. By focusing on their body language you sense how a particular question impacted them. Then wait for the response. Practice embracing silence first with a family member or a friend. Then transfer this to all of your conversations. I guarantee the other person will not be aware of the silence because they are thinking so it is up to you to respect their time to think. This will make you a better listener as well as a better questioner.