An executive coach once asked me, “Is it ever appropriate to interrupt while your client is speaking?” My response is, “Yes,” for the following reasons:

  1. There are some clients who just will not stop. If I do not interrupt they will talk to exhaustion. Often, they are talking about or around the issue and filling the bandwidth to subtly avoid dealing with the issue.
  2. Sometimes I sense that the client is so immersed in the minutia that they have lost their point–and, often, are boring themselves, too.
  3. The client may be demonstrating exactly the behavior that is keeping them locked in the situation we are working to release, so an interruption pointing to the behavior is the way to free the client. My interruption sometimes takes the form of, “You’re doing it right now.” or “Do you recognize that speaking in this way is exactly what keeps it the way it is?”

Still, I am certain that a big part of my value is intense, patient, appreciative listening. I can’t go too far wrong by listening a little “too long.” For coaches, silence really is golden. As one client told me, “I appreciate the way you let silence do the heavy lifting.”