Holding Space


"Run like hell my dear, from anyone likely to put a sharp knife into the sacred, tender vision of your beautiful heart." -  Hafiz

A little while ago, I stumbled across Denise's post on 'holding space' for others.  It was initially a strange turn of phrase but as I read on, the words slowly draped themselves around me in a blanket of resonance.  With some regret, I recalled times when I had not held space for someone else.  I thought too of the people who, whether on purpose or accidentally, hadn't done it for me.  I tried to remember an instance when someone had held space for me and how beautifully reassuring it felt.  What came to mind was an experience from eight years ago when I was still a student overseas.

I had a one-on-one meeting with a Spanish translation teacher after an assignment had been graded and returned.  He had such a gentle way of correction, of providing a clever alternative for every awkward word choice, or a practical solution for every shortcoming that it felt like a conversation - not a squirm-inducing, finger-wagging lecture.  I left the encounter with my mind clearer, inspired and encouraged to nail it next time by putting all of the puzzle pieces in the right order.  He wasn't wishy-washy or 'soft', as many people assume quiet correction to be; he artfully balanced his knowledge with experience and gentleness, holding space for me in that moment. 

I have never forgotten him, and he has stood in stark contrast to other teachers and now managers, who use correction as an opportunity to shame.  To hoist themselves a little higher while debasing the other person.  It almost always has the opposite effect to what they intended.  How are you holding space for others? Are you allowing them the room to stand at their full height, or do you cause them to shrink and retract?