You’ve heard this term before. This idea of holding space. Most likely from friends on their Eat Love Pray journey, doing therapy for the first time, having “huge” revelations, and bringing that kind of language into their everyday life. Like when Crossfitters were saying “crush” in every sentence a few years back. I was one of them. I’m going to crush this burger. You crushed that crossword puzzle. Man, I’m going to crush this nap. You get the point. Anyway, although you’re hearing this from everyone around you who finally believes in something better, it’s not just a bumper sticker or therapy lingo. It impacts your life more than you may know. Let me explain.
First, let’s talk about what it means. I’ll simplify it. Take it off the therapy couch and onto the street. Or maybe a bar. Since I try to put things into a shot glass. At the end of the day, it means to not make it about you. That’s it. Holding space means to make it about someone else. Plain and simple.
But most people can not do this. Why? Because we’re used to high jacking spaces. We’re wired to take. To want. To seek from others. We don’t want to accept someone’s opinions and worldviews if they don’t match ours. Especially if we care about them. So we try to convince, control, and manipulate. Maybe not in an obvious way. It can be very subtle. Most likely, we’re not even aware we’re doing it. But we are. We judge. We come in with our own angles, views, wants, and needs. Instead of holding space, we grab it. And sometimes, we disguise it as love.
Holding space means to be with someone without judgment. To donate your ears and heart without wanting anything back. To practice empathy and compassion. To accept someone’s truth, no matter what they are. To allow and accept. Embrace with two hands instead of pointing with one finger. To come in neutral. Open. For them. Not you. Holding space means to put your needs and opinions aside and allow someone to just be. Her. Self.
Look, don’t be so hard on yourself. This is actually really hard to do. Because we never learned this skill. Yes, it is a skill and it wasn’t taught to us. Unless you went to therapy school or took my life coaching intensive. And it wasn’t demonstrated while we were growing up. People did not hold a safe space for us. Most of us grew up with others trying to stamp their definitions over ours. Boyfriends. Parents. Friends. Yes, it may have come from a loving and caring place, and the intentions may have been good. But it was still their truth. Not ours. And their truths have been distorted by people who did not hold space for them.
Or was it more about control? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. The impact is the same. We grew up muted and judged. At work, on campus, in locker rooms. And like bullies bully, we start to do the same to others. We pass down the spaces that were created for us.
This impacts our relationships directly. If we do not have the ability to hold spaces, the relationship will not have legs. Because unsafe spaces encourage people to hide, to not truly show themselves. It blocks trust. Creates drift. The relationship becomes wobbly or Pseudo (false and surfacey). This means ceilings. The relationship can not grow and thrive. It is now stunted.
Nothing wrong doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong. We can be nice and share laughs but there will be no deepening that changes people in a way that promotes individual evolution. If spaces are not held.
Holding space is a big fucking deal. If people aren’t holding space for you, you are not becoming. Instead, you are surviving. And surviving isn’t living. It’s standing in comfort. Which is called being stuck.
If someone isn’t able to hold space for you, find someone who will.
If you can’t do it for you, do it for us.
Because we want you.
The real you.
Now let’s bring it into the coaching space.
Because holding space isn’t just for intimate relationships. If you don’t have the ability to hold space, the relationship with your client will suffer. The coaching experience for your client will be two dimensional. At best. She will be getting a lecture instead of an experience.
Holding space is the soil for coaching. And the healthy relationship created by one holding space for someone is where change is born. You’re creating a new relationship dynamic, one your client probably haven’t experienced before. Giving them a taste of something new, something different, something healthy.
You are laying new tracks for them to go down.
Life coaching isn’t just about structure, solutions, and accountability.
Life coaching starts with holding space.