top of page

Silence episode 1 - the virtues of silence in training, in meetings, in projects...

"Silence is golden, speech is silver". This saying does not seem to apply in training: both learners and trainers speak and listen intensely. Who has not found themselves slightly speechless at the end of a long presentation? Yet, in training too, silence is golden... Does this intrigue you? Hush, follow us...

Positivising silence

For some trainers and learners, silence can be anxiety-provoking: a sign that you have nothing to say, that you are bored, that you have run out of arguments, or that there is disagreement. Here are five ways to tame the silence.

1. The silence of integration

It takes a little time to receive and understand a message, to relate it to what we already know... Especially if the information is new, complex, unexpected, or emotionally involving.

Think of the famous "reaction time" when driving: in a normal state of attention, it takes us 1 second to become aware of a piece of information and another 1 second to react. This time is even more important if we are tired or distracted.

By being silent between two pieces of information, for a few seconds, you are giving your listener a gift. You allow him/her to take ownership of what has been said. In a virtual classroom or video conference, take even more care to do this: these methods require very sustained attention. Reducing the density of information helps to relieve the burden of this sustained attention.

2. The silence of interiorisation, of interiority

Do you know Qi Gong, the thousand-year-old Chinese "internal" martial art? In Qi Gong, "doing nothing" is as important as "doing". After each practice or movement, a time is proposed to be just attentive to what you feel in your body, to your emotions...

In our often frenetic world of activity, and during training sessions that are generally dense, allowing time for interiorisation allows participants to develop their awareness of themselves, and awareness of the path they have traveled.

We advise you to guide this time of interiorisation, of internalisation with the help of a few questions. In this way you help everyone to make the most of this time, and give "grist for the mill" to those who may be embarrassed by an "empty" moment...

3. The silence of thought

In a hurry, a trainer may propose a time for exercises and then intervene too quickly for the participants to really have time to think.

Or else, because of a fear of running out of time, the trainer may propose interview role plays and not allow time to prepare them. Often, the trainer intervenes for other reasons: to support the group of learners, to monitor their progress, etc.

So yes, it is necessary to make sure that individual or group work goes well before the debriefing. There are very specific techniques for this, which Luceole covers in trainer training.

On the other hand, resist the temptation to intervene too much. If the virtues of good interview preparation are extolled, give the participants time to do it. Ask them "And if we do this, how will your interviewer react/think/feel?"

In training, this is the time to go beyond the superficial! Participants will be amazed at the quality of thinking they have been able to develop, and the results obtained.

4. The silence of observation

To observe is not to be passive. It is being completely present to what is happening. In a situation, the protagonists and observers are all active... differently.

As with interiorisation, it is good to know what you are looking for. For example, in a trainer's training course, we can build an observation grid together to identify and analyse facilitation practices.

Of course, the observers must not show anything during the situation. There are rules for debriefing situations in order to make the most of the participants' inner experience and the observers' mirror.

Finally, we advise you to value self-observation in jobs where employees work alone. This allows them to progress and to question, if necessary, a particular response.

5. The silence of proactivity

To be reactive is not to "act" but to "be acted upon": for example, a participant responds to a stimulus with an immediate, non-reflective reaction. This reaction is linked to his experience, to his more or less well assimilated experiences... In impulsiveness, he can hurt the other, forget his own interest, manipulate...

On the contrary, being proactive means choosing one's attitude, one's behaviour when faced with a situation.

How can this be done? Simply remind the learners, first of all, to count to two, to breathe... And then be aware that they have several possible attitudes and behaviour. After a self-diagnosis carried out during the training, the participants know their "refuge behaviour" and can choose to use assertiveness.

Let's not forget that participants' inadequate (or sub-optimal) responses are often linked to the fact that they do not see any other way of doing things. However, it is a real relief for many adults to discover other ways of doing things, which they can practise 'off the cuff', in training, before using them in a real situation.

You are now familiar with five "natures" of silence. And the effectiveness of our interventions, both in engineering and in facilitation, is based on the use we make of silence. Of course, there are many other techniques and rules for successful training that we can implement with you.

Coming soon: "Silence episode 2 - the tactics of silence in training, in meetings, in project mode...". Follow Luceole on Linkedin to be informed of its publication.

Are you fishing for ideas to boost your trainings and make them more effective? Contact us!

Claire Fromageot

Founder & CEO

Luceole, a professional effectiveness training organisation, trains your employees on an inter-company basis and carries out your tailor-made training projects.


Luceole expert en ingénierie pédagogique et formation
bottom of page