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What is Holding Space for Someone (and Why It Matters)

Jun 07, 2019

Holding space for someone, or someone holding space for you is the way we deepen our relationships and feel valued and loved as part of a community.

It’s a willingness to sit with a person, be present and listen with your heart as another person shares their journey, no matter how hard it might be.

It’s unconditional support.

It’s listening mindfully without trying to fix anything, without judgement and without trying to shape the outcome. It’s being there when someone needs you the most.

But sadly, in our modern world, we don’t live in the same kind of communities that we used to. We don’t have the chance to hold space for others or share our own deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions because we’re too busy getting on with the rest of our lives.

We don’t sit and talk as often as we should. We don’t listen. We struggle to be ‘present’.

Today I’d like to talk to you about the value of holding space for someone and allowing others to hold space for you, and help you understand how you can start listening with your heart too.

Support isn’t always easy to find

We might not notice a lack of support too much when we’re younger. We’re often much to busy.

But as we grow older, our kids start growing their own wings and flying the nest and we notice those changes that the perimenopause and menopause can bring, our hearts start calling to us.

We start craving to be listened to. We want to be heard. We need it to feel complete, supported and understood by those around us.

The only trouble is, the people we think we can turn to for support often can’t or won’t do it

You’ve probably experienced it for yourself. You start opening up to someone about something and the other person look like they’re listening, but deep down you know that they’re really not.

They don’t want to talk at all. They’re not fully present. They’re checking their phone or scrolling social media whilst you’re there opening your heart. Or they interrupt you mid-sentence to tell you something completely unrelated.

You might visit your GP, believing that we’ll get sympathy and understanding there. But you only have a ten-minute window to say what’s on your mind. But before long your time is up and their eyes are back on their computer screens, ready for the next patient.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m being harsh on these people.

We all have busy lives and millions of obligations that pull us in millions of different directions throughout the course of the day. We all have our own stresses and challenges, so we can’t always be there when we’re needed the most.

But that’s difficult to understand when you’re most in need of support.

We all want to be heard- not just with people’s ears, but with their hearts too.

Holding space isn’t about problem-solving

You might be thinking, “But Pamela, I’m a great listener.

But think about it for a second.

  • Do you really keep judgement at bay when someone gets vulnerable and shares their thoughts, feelings or emotions with you?
  • Are you really present or thinking about what you’re going to make for tea?
  • Do you find yourself problem-solving and offering solutions?

If you’re completely honest, you’re probably aren’t holding space as effectively as you could be.

In order to be heard as an individual; as the strong and powerful woman you are, you also need to be able to hold space for others too. It’s not a one-way street.

Do this and together we can create that great community that society is missing these days.

We can hold space for each other, listen with our hearts and not just our heads and show our unconditional love for each other.

How to get the support you need and learn how to do the same for others

None of us are born knowing how to hold space for a person, but with a little practice, we can soon learn how to become better listeners and help the people we care about to be heard exactly as they need.

Here are some ways that you can learn how to hold space for others and ask for the same for yourself whenever you need it.

1. Ask for what you want

Often, the only way to get what we want is to ask for it, no matter how hard this can be.

...If you want your partner to switch off their phone and listen to you, ask them.

...If you don’t want your best friend to try to solve your problems, ask them (nicely!).

...If you want someone you trust to lend a listening ear, pick up that phone and ask.

You’ll often discover that this person didn’t realise that you wanted them to hold space for you. They didn’t realise that you felt that way. No amount of hints would ever have helped them to work it out for themselves. The only way is to ask.

Yes, it can feel difficult. Reaching out and asking for help often is.

But the initial discomfort is usually very much worth it and can help build stronger and more meaningful relationships with those around you.

2. Be present

You can only hold space for someone if you are 100% present with them. However, this often doesn’t happen.

How often are you having a conversation with someone whilst simultaneously thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner, whether the postman delivered that important document you’re waiting for, whether you need to schedule vaccinations for your next holidays, and so on?

Or you hear the familiar ‘ping’ of a notification and so pull your phone from your pocket and start scrolling through Instagram whilst your friend is telling you about her pig of a husband?

Please stop! Get present.

Put your phone back into your pocket, make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to and simply listen to their words. Resist the urge to interrupt or ask questions whilst they’re mid-flow and allow them to speak.

3. Practice!

Learn to better hold space for people by practising as often as you can, whether it means listening more closely to your friends, loved ones and colleagues, or even becoming more present when that little old lady at the supermarket shares her thoughts with you.

Here are a few tips that can help:

  • First, put your phone away and allow yourself to be present.
  • Pay attention to the people around you and their words, body language and energy.
  • Encourage them to open up and share whatever they need to.
  • Hold their hand.
  • Sit with them in the hard stuff without trying to change or control anything.
  • Provide the unconditional love and support they need to feel heard and make their own choices, whether or not you agree with their choices.
  • Don’t take their sorrow or anxiety on board or try to ‘fix’ them

4. Be mindful of your own feelings

When you hold space for someone, it’s equally important that you’re aware of how you feel. This is because your thoughts, emotions and feelings can sometimes stand between you and the person you’re trying to hold space for.

If they’re sharing a conflict or a challenge that you feel strongly about, it’s too easy to allow your feelings to prevent you from holding space for a person. Equally so if you’re struggling with your own issues and your thoughts are elsewhere.

You shouldn’t allow these to interfere when you’re holding space for someone. Of course, if you have your own struggles, you will be able to share them. But whilst that person you’re holding space for is taking centre stage, your focus should only be on him or her.

5. Get grounded

You can only hold space for someone if you first feel safe, comfortable and free from fears or worries. Some great ways to get grounded and feel better include:

  • Getting outside for fresh air
  • Practising yoga
  • Eating more fresh, colourful produce and reducing your intake of processed foods
  • Getting some exercise
  • Doing some grounding meditation
  • Coming to one of our Heal Her retreats!

6. Find a therapist

You can find the support you need by coming along to my clinic or finding a therapist that can hold space for you and allow you to work through your thoughts, feelings and emotions.

We all need to be heard and understood. It helps us to feel supported and valued, it helps us feel happier and it even helps to boost our health. Just to have someone hold space for you can make you feel a million times better, no matter what challenge you’re facing.

 

Are you a good listener? Do you hold space for the people who count? Let me know in the comments!

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