Have you ever experienced “Silence” when you asked someone a question?

Might you have been uncomfortable with their silence?

So what did you do?

The average person waits only 2-3 seconds before rephrasing the question or answering the question themselves or just moving on.  And strange as it may sound the average person has no idea that they do this!

How about you?  Confronted with silence have you too quickly re-asked the question?  Or restated the question in another way?  Or maybe asked a second or even third question hoping they would respond?

Please don’t!

Your silence can, in fact, be one of the most effective questioning tools that you can use. 

Ask your question and then give the person the gift of silence. Give the person time to think and formulate their response.  Be still.  Focus your kind attention on them, relax and wait. The good news is that they will answer and often the longer the silence the more thoughtful the response will be!

Might you appreciate some silence?

If you were asked “What steps could you take in the next month to become a better leader?” would you be able to start answering in 2-3 seconds?  Or might you appreciate some silence to craft your response?  What would happen if after 2-3 seconds the one who asked you the question began to restate their question?  Or asked another question?  Would that be helpful? Or would you prefer for them to remain silent to give you time to think?  I am guessing the later!  So if you would appreciate some silence to thoughtfully respond to a great question, what might those you ask great questions of also appreciate?

Don’t waste a Great Question by jumping on their silence with your words preventing them from having the time they need to thoughtfully respond.

Four great quotes on the value of silence:

  • “Silence adds value to the questions you ask.” Dan
  • “The single most interesting thing you can do is ask a good question and then let the answer hang there for two or three or four seconds as though you’re expecting more. You know what? They get a little embarrassed and give you more.” Mike Wallace – Legendary CBS News Reporter
  • “Excellent leaders not only know the right questions to ask, but they also know how to wait patiently for an answer.  They are comfortable with silence  If you are not comfortable with the silence, you will fill it with another question that leaves your original question unanswered and squelches engagement.  After asking an employee a question, your patience creates power.  Resist the gravitational pull to fill the void.  Your silence creates accountability for a response.  You would rather wait for a well-thought-out response than get a quick, half-baked reply.” Lee J. Colan and Julie David-Colan authors of “The 5 Coaching habits of Excellent Leaders”
  • “When you ask, look the other person in the eye. And—this is the most important part—then stay quiet. Ask, simply, and then wait. Don’t throw a bunch of garbage words into the space between your ask and the person’s response. The waiting part—that silence—is deafening, but critical.” Sarah K. Peck from her free eBook: “The Art of Asking”

Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Leading With Questions and is featured here with permission.


Bob Tiede
Bob Tiede
BOB has been on the staff of Cru for 45 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 6 remarkable grandchildren.

SOLD OUT! JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE