- Remove your ego. We often try to convince others to our viewpoint or side. Holding space requires you to put your wants and desires aside and focus on being there for the other person. Don’t react if the situation is hurtful or painful for you to hear and keep your own experience and issues to yourself, refocusing on what the other person is telling you. And of course, put your phone away, stop watching the tv and give them your entire attention.
2. Be prepared for big emotions. Encourage the other person to let it all out and reassure them that you are here for them. Angry or emotional outbursts may be directed at you if the discussion is centred around something you have done or said. Remain calm and allow the person space to speak without interruption.
3. Sit in uncomfortable silence. Too often we say something to fill a void in conversation or are immediately formulating our response, meaning we aren’t really listening. By allowing silence the other person can gather their thoughts and raise anything else that may come to their mind. Talk less and actively listen to understand, not to respond.
4. Accept them. Allow them to speak freely and don’t scold or reprimand them. Let the other person talk and really listen to what they have to say without judgement. You don’t need to agree with them for them to feel accepted and understood. Reflect back what they have said to help gain clarity, building trust and empathy, and don’t get upset or angry if their opinion is different to yours.
5. Give permission to explore. Allow the other person the space and time to think through their situation with their own wisdom and to share openly. Often, they will arrive at an answer for themselves without you needing to offer advice. You may end up looking for solutions together, but this should be led by the person experiencing the issue rather than you imposing your own experience or giving advice that could make the situation worse.
6. Trust them. Different approaches they try may fail. Understand failure is perfectly ok as it provides a learning opportunity. Trust they can handle their business and that if they do make mistakes, they will learn from them, pick themselves up and keep moving forward.
7. Don’t fix. Supporting people means we empower them to make decisions for themselves, not enable them or offer our own solutions. Don’t tell them “it’ll be ok”. It may never be ok, or it may take a long time before it is ok. Encourage them to offer solutions by asking open ended questions like “ok, so where do we go from here?”. They may already know the solution and just need to process it first. You may need to step in, for example where someone is dealing with an addiction issue, but usually you should empower others to have faith in their own problem-solving capacity allowing them to become accountable for themselves.
8. Don’t overwhelm them. Give enough advice or information as people can handle and let them process it, allowing them to make decisions they are comfortable with. Providing too many options can further confuse a person who may already be struggling to think clearly about a situation.
9. Don’t share their problem with others without their permission. When you are a witness to an Unravelling and hold space there is a sacred trust that is shared. By gossiping to others, you will destroy that person’s trust in you.
10. Protect your own space. It’s ok to say you can’t help at this time. You may be going through your own issues, or the person may be coping with something that is out of your depth. Suggest they speak to someone else and if you are not a trained mental health professional and a person has severe trauma, mental illness or is contemplating suicide, refer them to professional help.
Visit Courtney Stark’s online page here: https://thesacredwillow.com.au/