What "Holding Space" For Others Really Means + How To Do It

Yoga Instructor and Motivational Speaker By Margeaux House
Yoga Instructor and Motivational Speaker
Margeaux House is a yoga instructor, lifestyle/wellness blogger, and motivational speaker.
Group of Women Smiling Together

Image by Jacob Lund / iStock

A key phrase you may have been hearing lately is "holding space," but what does that really mean? The definition of holding space is to be present with someone, without judgment. It means you donate your ears and heart without wanting anything in return. It involves practicing empathy and compassion. You accept someone's truths, no matter what they may be, and put your needs and opinions aside, allowing someone to just be. Holding space may appear to be easy, but sometimes our own opinions and egos can get in the way, making it a bit more difficult to put into practice.

With the traumatic events happening in the world today, first COVID-19 and most recently the brutal police killing of George Floyd, the world is at a crucial tipping point of upset and unrest. Many people are feeling anger, grief, loss, depression, and hopelessness, while others feel unsafe and unheard. Now, more than ever, it is important to create safe spaces for those we love to feel heard and held.

Learning how to effectively hold space for someone is a skill that most people are not taught, but the good news is it is something we can all learn. When we do so, we allow for deep connection and healing. 

How to hold space effectively.

Here are a few things you can do to get you started on the road to holding space for those in need: 

  1. Start by practicing deep listening. Deep listening is the art of listening not just to hear what the person is saying but listening to understand. It involves not only your ears but also your heart.  
  2. Listening without judgment. This one can be hard, but the true definition of nonjudgmental is someone or something that does not express an opinion. We all have opinions, and it is in our nature to share them, but when holding space for someone, you must remove your opinion from the conversation and allow the other person the space to present theirs. 
  3. Practice loving kindness. Loving kindness is a Buddhist philosophy that involves cultivating compassion and love for all living beings, Earth, and the self. There is a popular loving kindness meditation mantra that reads, "May all human beings everywhere be healthy, happy, and free." It is the art of sending positive and loving thoughts to all in the universe.
  4. Make room for others. Make room for and allow the other person to feel all that they need to feel. Hold them if they need to cry, or allow them to yell or scream, if necessary.
  5. Use the power of your breath. Deep breathing is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected to yourself, which will, in turn, allow you to deepen your connection to others.
  6. Let go of the "fix it" mentality. Our natural instinct in most cases is to offer solutions when we see people in pain, sometimes mentioning things that might make us feel better. Be there to listen only. The process of moving through pain is individual, and the only way past it is to sit with it.

Ultimately, practicing holding space for those who need it will not only show love and compassion but also pave the way for deep healing.

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