Today my partner received some really tough news. I actually received the news first and had to be the bearer of it. I immediately went into “fix it” mode trying to think of how I could help, what I could say, what resources I could offer. And then I stopped because I honestly felt like none of that would be sufficient—or more importantly, helpful.
So I decided that the best thing I could do for her is to hold space. Holding space for someone else can almost feel like you’re doing nothing at all. But in reality, what you’re really doing is allowing that person to have whatever experience they are having without holding judgment, offering advice or trying to solve their problem. It’s about being fully present with them in that situation, listening and giving them support but just enough to know you’re there if that person needs you, without you smothering.
Heather Plett,a writer and coach, does a fantastic job of not only explaining what holding space is, she also is a facilitator of it. And after re-reading her post about it, I knew instantly that that was what I needed to do for my partner.
Now holding space sounds easy. But it requires a very delicate balance and pretty much no ego. So when I delivered the news, I could feel myself holding my breath and almost biting my tongue because I was chomping at the bit. I wanted to share consoling thoughts, be angry with her, lash out even, offer solutions. But I didn’t. I simply told her the news and gave her space to have whatever reaction and emotions she desired. Without interference from me.
At this point, that is the best support I can offer her. If at any point she feels she needs more and asks for it, then I will gladly offer it up. But for right now, I will continue to hold space for her until she can hold it for herself, which can be even more difficult to do. It feels nice though to provide this type of support. It’s freeing, for both the person holding space and the person you’re holding space for.