I read thousands of social media posts a month, and hundreds of blogposts. Sometimes a post stands out, and needs extra attention. Today I read Heather Plett’s blog post about Holding Space. It struck a chord.
If ever there was the right time to consider the concept of holding space, this is it.
This week I have been called on to hold space. Whether it is just the tone of a message online, or a good bout of listening, my actions, the way I am present, will make a significant impact on the people I mentioned. My oldest friend lost her father after a wonderful long life, and one of my newest friends lost her husband way too soon. Both are managing well in the circumstances. A dear friend safely escaped being held at gunpoint and is working through her trauma in the best way possible. Also in this week I have spoken with a few new clients, all choosing to work through challenges with the support of a mentor or coach.
Heather Plett explains what holding space means to her, in her beautiful blog post ‘What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone‘:
To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.
What does holding space mean for me?
For me it is about being utterly present, without agendas, and without the need to prove anything, as someone battles through their challenges and their emotions. It is not about balancing pure listening with gentle support, and about not projecting how I would respond onto them. Many people refer to it as being the container, and that works for me.
In my book, The Mentor Within, I talk about helping people to quieten their monster within so they can really heard their inner wisdom and reconnect with their Mentor Within. While they will, at times, ask for someone to be their external mentor or coach, they will learn over time to trust their own deep sense of what is right for them and those around them. Or if they have learnt this before, as many people have, they will be reminded about how to listen to themselves.
Whether I am with a friend in grief, a colleague battling difficult clients, or a client who has engaged me to hold space professionally, I can feel whether I am being the container as they reach for their inner wisdom, or whether I am trying to fix their problems for them, making myself indispensable and therefore overly powerful. It is tempting to be the rescuer, but it is not usually worth the lack of traction that comes with taking this role.
Instead it is worth making magic together, creating the space for great decisions and powerful action.
Take the time to consider how you hold space for others, and perhaps even more importantly, how you hold space for yourself.
(First published on Linked In)