3 Words that Help Your Coachees Go Deeper! | Get "Heart to Heart" with Julie Johnson MCC

Coachee at desk taking their time writing next to laptop

In this column "Heart to Heart with Julie", Julie Johnson MCC shares sample coaching conversations and situations to help us grow. These are real coaching experiences that illustrate common issues we face as coaches, and Julie also shares her learning, ideas and practical tips to help you become a better coach.

Please share your thoughts, takeaways and your own experiences in the comments below!

These articles were first posted on Julie's blog, The Coaching Cube, and have been updated for inclusion here.

In this short but sweet article we look at the power of giving our coachees space—or specifically, time!

A powerful learning for me...

A few years ago, I asked a coachee for feedback at the end of a coaching session (which I frequently do). She answered, "You made me feel comfortable."

Curious, I asked what specifically I had done that made her feel comfortable. And she answered without hesitation, "You said, 'Take your time.'"

And this really got me thinking!

Challenging questions can (and should) create a pause!

Now we've all experienced that pause that appears after we've asked our coachee a particularly challenging question. I'm talking about the sort of question that requires soul searching or an honest look at one's own (often limiting) beliefs or assumptions.

When this happens, our coachee's reaction to such a deep question can sometimes be an unusual amount of silence. And depending on culture, and many other factors, that silence may make our coachee feel socially uncomfortable.

Why? Because we're social creatures. We worry about appearing rude or stupid. We want to do things well.

Which means we need to watch out for...

So when you ask that challenging question and the silence stretches out, there's a risk that your coachee wants to say something trivial to fill the space, or buy some time to come up with an answer.

But this may distract them from fully focusing on the question and its emerging answer. Or worse, it may throw them off a helpful train of thought.

So, what to do?

Easy. Simply let your coachees know they can take their time!

In fact I probably use that phrase several times per week. And when I do, I see shoulders relax downward, gazes shift upward or out the window, or notes being furiously written.

Here's how it often goes:

  • Challenging question
  • Silence (tense)
  • I say, "Take your time."
  • Silence (relaxed)
  • And now come the important discoveries...

Now it's your turn

Giving our coachees explicit permission to "take your time" is a gift. And that gift can create the space our coachees need for real insights and progress.

If you liked this "Heart to Heart" column on silence from Julie Johnson, you may also like:

Julie Johnson

Contributing Author:

Julie Johnson MCC, MIM is an Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor and Author. Her purpose is to help motivated people be at their best. She's passionate about spreading quality coaching conversations farther and wider, impacting the lives of people she'll never meet. Julie helps leaders develop an authentic Coaching Leadership Style so they grow next-generation leaders - and scale their own leadership. She also loves creating synergies by connecting 'the right people' with each other. Meet Julie in this short video here and learn more about her on her website here. You can also sign up for her monthly blog The Coaching Cube.

Learn more about Julie & see all their articles here >>

Image of Coachee pondering powerful question at desk with pen, paper and laptop by Vadym Pastukh via Shutterstock


  1. Beverly Landais

    Dear Julie, Such wisdom in a short but sweet blog. In my experience, creating an environment where clients can sit with their thoughts always results in better discussion when they are ready to speak. Best wishes, Beverly

    • Julie Johnson

      Thank you for your kind words, Beverly! I've expanded the repetoire of ways to do this now, like "I'm just going to take a few notes.", "Do you mind if I grab a glass of water?" etc. I do this right after a question that they clearly need some time to think about before answering. They are often quite relieved/happy that the space has been created. Anyway, best wishes to you! Julie


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