Holding space used to mean sitting in an empty parking spot at the mall until your friend showed up, risking the ire of other drivers and the potential of being run down by a Jeep Cherokee.
But in the coaching world, holding space means you are present physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually available for a person who is going through. some. stuff.
It takes intention and practice to hold space, but these five tips can get you started. Soon, friends will flock to your presence to unburden themselves and you'll be wishing you never read this blog.
1. Practice deep listening. You can start holding space by taking a few deep breaths, then turning all your attention to the person speaking. What does their voice sound like? What emotions do you feel radiating from them. Listen to what their heart is saying, not just their words. This also means keeping your mouth shut.
2. Drop judgment. There's nothing worse than feeling judged by the person you're being vulnerable to. They're already feeling exposed and afraid, they don't need your Judging Judger behavior making it worse. Watch your body language. You might not realize your tight lips, folded arms, raised eyebrow or eye-rolling behaviors come across as judgment. Might as well wear a powdered wig and black robe.
3. Don't offer "fix-it" advice. We've all done it. We say things like, "Well, what you should do . . ." or "Here's the next step . . " or "I'll just call your boss and tell her off." They don't need you to fix the situation. They need you to HEAR the situation with love. That's all. Which leads us to . . .
4. Offer compassion and kindness. Recall a time you felt alone, you felt you had failed or you felt desperate. Create a sense of love, then step inside it. Feel a deep connection to the person you're listening to on a human and spiritual level. We're all connected. We're all doing the best we can.
5. Don't "one-up" the speaker. Let's role play, shall we?
Sad Person: I can't believe my mother is so uncaring and cold. I feel very lonely.
Helper Person: I know, right? Mothers are the worst! I haven't even talked to my mom for six days because she told me I dressed like a homeless person. And don't get me started on how she acted when I was a teenager . . .
This type of "helpful sharing" isn't "helpful" and takes the spotlight off the person who needs your help and shines it right in your ego-driven face. They don't need to hear your whining. They need to feel your love.
Practice these tips this week on everyone you talk to. Can you listen more than speak? Can you feel more than judge? Can you hold a sacred space so people can feel loved, heard and valued? That's the challenge.
Peri Kinder is the owner of Life & Laughter Coaching. She's a happiness coach, yoga and meditation instructor, and award-winning freelance writer.