I was eight years old when I took my first piano lesson. As many other kids in my music school, I started up with very simple songs about little sparrows sitting on the windowsill or footloose promenades through dense forests inhabited by squirrels jumping in the trees. Dam… da… da… da… — I would pick out, stiffly. My playing was mechanical and expressionless. For an eight year-old, I was technically pretty good and year after year my skill improved. As I performed better, one of the most difficult things for me was not to learn the notes. Many music students will agree: It’s not brain surgery. Rather, for me, the most grueling incline of my learning curve was mastering the subtlety needed to cradle a piano’s resonance through a rest.
Claude Debussy, one of the most significant composers in the history of Western music, said: „Music is the silence between the notes”.
Silence in music is as important as the sound of the right keys. You can have brilliant technique, but without knowing how to utilize rest you won’t be able to create any impact on your listener. If you put on the Tord Gustavsen Trio, one of my favorite jazz bands, you can hear the silence loud and clear.
Silence sweeps away the clutter. Music, like our spoken language, can become muddy and thus overwhelming to the listener. Knowing when and how much to utilize silence is a listening skill, one of the key talents of any musician.
This is also true in coaching practices. We try to meet our clients’ needs using different methodologies, models and questioning techniques. We dearly want (or need?) to maintain our expertise as coaches by constantly reaching into our bag of coaching tricks to pull out yet another strategy or time-tested tool. We like to feed our egos. We like to talk and talk to make our clients think that we’re so full of good ideas. Surely one of those ideas must be the magic key to unlock the latent success the client is looking for. But who is coaching about? Whom do you serve?
When you are coaching, put aside your „expertise” and qualifications. Stop being a star. Create a profound space for listening to your clients’ deepest aspirations. Build a unique shared partnership. Be less invasive. Let your clients’ distinctive thought process come out and play. Enable your clients to uncover their own solutions. Discover the power your own voice has in silence.
Let this happen naturally… effortlessly…. Forego the notion of being an expert. Listen to the space between the phrases. Silence speaks volumes.