It is the call the parent of a teenager dreads. The policeman phoned at 2:30 A.M. to tell this single mother that her daughter is at the police station. She had been picked up in the wake of a wild party. Relieved that her daughter was not hurt, the mother’s attention quickly turned to disappointment and anger. The two of them had been fighting for weeks and now the daughter had broken both the agreement with her mom and the curfew of the town.
The mother hurriedly gathered her things, stormed out of the house, cursing her daughter for the embarrassment this would cause the family when the news appeared in their small-town paper the next day. As she drove to the station, silently praying that none of her neighbors would see her, she vented loudly about what she planned to tell her daughter for “screwing up yet again.”
And then . . . she remembered a phrase from a coaching workshop series she was attending as a leader at work: Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs… She stopped ranting long enough to pause. And hear herself talk . . . and wonder what had gone wrong. And pull over to the side of the road for a minute to settle her breathing. And shed tears as she recognized in that moment the pain she felt in her sense of separation from her daughter. And vow to herself to find a path to a breakthrough starting that night.
And so . . . after she signed the papers at the police station, she began the “long” drive home — with her daughter sitting sullenly in the back seat refusing to engage. In the awkward silence that ensued, the mother finally opened her mouth to speak. The daughter instantly geared up to protest, anticipating yet another big fight, but was stunned to hear her mother say, “It must be hard to be 16 these days. I would like to hear what it is like for you when you’re ready.” And from that pause, the deep listening began . . .
The mother learned that listening is not half of a transaction but rather the whole of an incubation. Rather than perpetuating the same old story with her daughter, she paused long enough to create the space for a different story to become possible. Somewhere within any breakdown are the seeds of a breakthrough waiting to be born. Is that not what coaching is all about?
Story Source: Dr. David Drake
LISTENING PAYS: One way to insert a powerful pause is simply to take a deep breath before responding. The payoff is huge!