‘Holding space’ is one of the greatest gifts we can offer another person.
Whether we are speaking with a friend in need, working with a colleague in a challenging situation, or supporting a client to overcome their obstacles, ‘holding space’ means we create a clearing in our own thoughts and reactions so we can meet the other person where they’re at.
By holding space, we offer them a safe container so they feel heard and seen, without judgement.
Often when we confide in others, or find ourselves in a potentially volatile conversation, there is the fear of being judged or rejected. This automatically creates a barrier as we put up defences to hide our vulnerability and not risk looking foolish.
And so the opportunity for true heart-felt connection is lost… and the very real cost of this (in our families, communities, and business environments) are people who feel isolated, unsupported, and disconnected.
The art of holding space can be achieved through a few simple – yet ego-challenging – steps:
1) Clear your mind and become centred in the present moment.
2) Give up the need to analyse or fix the other person. Accept that they are on their own path and your role is to hold their hand (and heart) while they face their shadow in the way that feels safe for them.
3) Ask gentle questions to allow the person to unravel the thoughts that roll in, but don’t be attached to the answer – this is not about proving how much you know or diagnosing them, but merely witnessing with awareness.
4) If the other person’s story triggers you, breathe deeply and honour your own process without bringing it into their story. This is not the time to compare tragedies to see who is worse off.
5) Do not ‘buy into’ their story – you can offer compassion without needing to cement their version of events because, regardless of the ‘facts’ about how it occurred, what is real to them is their own experience of things. Only once they have stopped justifying their behaviour from a place of pain, can they consider another person’s view of a situation.
6) There is no ‘goal’ or ‘result’ to strive for. Don’t push the person beyond where they are ready and willing to go themselves. Trust that you are part of a loving process in that moment, and the best you can do is be available when they want to journey further.
7) Be very aware of the role you play so that you are not enabling them in a state of victimhood. If you feel that the person is using your presence as a tool to keep themselves stuck, then step back graciously and release them with love.
Practising the above steps allows us to be better listeners and more honest communicators, so we can be the best version of ourselves and truly embrace the gifts of our humanity.
© Artemiss Keyhani, 2020
Photo credit: Skeeze from Pixabay