Enjoy the Silence

Silence is golden, apparently. But for a lot of us, silence can also be awkward. A space that needs to be filled. And often, we’re all too quick to rush in to fill it.  
But in collaborative practice, silence can be immensely powerful. And learning to stop ourselves from jumping in and filling the gaps is a skill that can bring huge benefits in round table meetings. I’ve found it to have numerous benefits in collaborative discussions. 
The first is learning to enjoy your own silence. In other words: listen. I mean really listen. Because often, what your client means and what your client says isn’t the same thing. Listen to the subtext of the conversation, and invariably you will find yourself with valuable information that will help shape the discussions between your client and their former partner or spouse and you, as their lawyers. 
For some people ‘active listening’ is something that comes naturally, but for many of us it is a skill that needs to be learned and honed over time. And believe me, it is well worth the investment. 
The second is using silence to encourage your clients to ‘do the work’. In a round table meeting, make sure your client is speaking just as much – if not more – than you. And if there’s something you need from them, silence can be an incredibly powerful tool. Because, just as I said earlier that we rush to fill silences, so does everybody else. 
But what if they don’t? What if nobody says anything? If you really feel that you’re getting nowhere, and your clients aren’t inputting into the discussion, take a break. Come back into the room, sit in different seats and ask your clients how they’re feeling. Or ask them why they aren’t saying anything: it’s very likely that their response will move the discussion forward. 
How do you use silence in your work? I’d love to hear how it works for you.

Carmelita Ardren is head of family, children and divorce at Raworths Solicitors. 
Brighter Future