How much we can learn in moments of quiet, from Toria Bono.

Recently, I have begun an apprenticeship in coaching and mentoring, alongside a level 5 coaching diploma. At the first training session, I walked away a little concerned about my ability to coach, as I was told that coaching is about listening, asking the right questions and powerful feedback. I went home to my husband and told him that coaching was very much not about me talking. He suggested that I didn’t give up my day job!

In the next training session, I learnt about being silent. Now, I was the child who was sent to sponsored silences by my mother, just so I would be quiet. I was not a silent child and hadn’t become quieter with age.

Two ears, one mouth

Anyway, a number of training sessions later, I began to coach. I kept at the forefront of my mind that I had to listen and embrace silence. I remember reading that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason and focused on that as I started the session. I found that the more I listened, the more I relaxed. Yes, I was concerned about asking the right questions and ensuring that my feedback was powerful, but I wasn’t worrying about giving advice or having the right response.

After this session and a few others, I began to reflect on how I communicated with others on a daily basis. I realised that although I listened to what they were saying I was often thinking about what I could say to show that I related or how I could help them with ‘sage’ advice. I wasn’t really present and listening to them.

I don’t know where I learnt this, but I know that a number of people that I have talked to about it have said they often feel a pressure to relate and help.

Silence to allow space

I have also been ‘playing’ with silence – I have discovered that I don’t need to fill it, either in or out of the coaching room. This was eye opening for me. I had always felt that I should keep the conversation flowing. If you ask my husband about our first date, he will tell you that he felt ‘machine-gunned’ by words, as I just didn’t stop talking. When I am nervous, I can still talk incessantly but I have discovered that when I am quiet, I feel more relaxed and peaceful. Silence allows space to think and gives us time to breathe in and out. What is fascinating about allowing silences when I am chatting to someone else is that I learn so much. Whether I am chatting to the children in my class (some of my greatest teachers), my husband, my daughter, my friends, my work colleagues or my amazing podcast guests, I learn so much when I focus on them, listen and allow there to be moments of silence.

If you haven’t tried being quiet and just listening, I highly suggest it. Yes, I know that I am all about talking and helping people to find their voice but I have discovered that in order for them to find it, they must be heard by others and sometimes that only happens when we allow there to be silence.


  • Toria Bono

    Toria Bono is a teacher who has worked in a variety of educational roles over the past 20 years and is a fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. Toria is also the founder and owner of ‘Tiny Voice Talks’ which includes a podcast, a book and a Twitter space for educators to find their voice and connect with others.
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