How To Hold Space For People

In this video, I talk about the importance of being able to hold space for other people. What does that mean? Well it’s not just a metaphor or something magical happening but an important skill set, which if mastered, can change the type of relationships you have with others.

I cover:

  • Understand that doing is not always about action
  • How to be a ‘container’ for the other person
  • Let go of your need to ‘fix’ someone

It’s hard to read the label from inside the jar.
– David Wood


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[00:00:00] Meredith Bell: What are the things that you share is how you hold space for people. And I would love to have you describe, cause that’s kind of a popular term these days, holding space for someone, but in your world of coaching, what does that look like? What does that mean? You’re doing with another person.

[00:00:20] David Wood: I love that question.

What is holding space for someone it’s a lack of doing. In a way, so let’s suppose you’re going through something and you are freaking out you stressed, you’re anxious. I had a client recently who hired me to help double revenue and then she was diagnosed with cancer. So I did a session with her and her partner and largely.

I was just there being with them and holding space and listening as she shared. And it, you know, initially when I was a coach, I figured I had to jump in and fix things and I’m still very solution focused, but there’s a time to not do that. There’s a time to just be the container. So. She could feel everything that she’s failing.

And even though she may not be in a space of this is all okay, that’s the spice I’m holding because I know at some level, I don’t always know it consciously that everything’s okay, nothing’s wrong and nothing really matters. So it’s like I rest in that place. And then eventually she might find her way there to.

This is all. Okay. And if not, I can share the space that I’m holding, which is a space of this is this is a new adventure. What what’s possible out of this. And we ended the session with, so what game are you going to play now, given that you have this diagnosis and the length of your life is less certain than it was before.

What do you want to do with that time? But that came after just holding space. And there was a coach by the name of Sattin Roger, who is one of the most amazing trainers and coaches. I know. And he once said, I get the sense that David could hold space for someone going through. Absolutely. Anything.

Another example is if someone’s suicidal, There was a young man in California who had tried to take his life twice. And I reached out to a woman who told me about it and I said, look, I’m not a therapist, but I’d be willing to talk to this young man. If the parents want me to do it and she went and set it up, the parents were like, yes, please.

And I said to this kid, I bet everyone’s freaking. Everyone’s freaking out. That’s the opposite of holding space. Everyone’s trying to change it and fix it. And they they’re so scared. You’re gonna, you’re gonna try a third time and be successful. He’s like, yeah. I said, well, I’m not sure I’d try and talk you out of it, just so you know, I might want to make sure you’re thinking logically and you’ve tried everything else, but if you get to the point and you decide this is too high, I can get that.

That’s what I mean by holding space for him to be anything. I’ve got another friend who is suicidal here in Boulder, and I went and spent time with her. And I said, look, if you’re thinking straight, you’ve tried everything and you, and you really want to go. You don’t have to do it alone.

I’ll be with you. So to me, that’s holding space. I said, I’ll make sure you’re thinking straight. Like if you, if you’re totally charged and you’re, you, you, you know, your thinking’s haywire and it’s, it’s something you haven’t really thought through. And we haven’t tried all the options. I’m going to probably want to slow you down.

And she’s like, okay, I understand that. But no one else in her life. Can’t hold space for what she’s experiencing and her desires and her fears and whatever, because they’ve just got it. That it’s wrong. You cannot take your own life and I’ve got to keep you on the planet no matter how much you’re suffering.

Yeah. That’s, that’s not holding the space. That’s your own stuff coming in to get in the way.

[00:04:30] Meredith Bell: Okay. Yeah. Can you share what happened in both of those cases?

[00:04:36] David Wood: Yeah. Well with the young man, I didn’t keep in touch with him, but we had a really great call and he seemed to be feeling more grounded and accepted and seen and witnessed.

And then with my, my friend, she seemed quite moved. And she said, no one else has said that. And the idea that if she does take her on in life, she doesn’t have to do it alone, seem to really have some impact as well. So anyway, She’s still with us.

[00:05:05] Meredith Bell: Oh, I love both of those David, because what you’re demonstrating in your presence in both of those situations is this to me, here’s how I’m reading it.

Just pure love. Pure acceptance of this other person as a fellow human being, without trying to impose any of your own judgment sense of right or wrong. And, and I think they had to have felt that from you in order to, I guess, have relaxed into the space that you provided for them,

[00:05:40] David Wood: it may be true. I just thought about another friend who tried to take his own life.

A couple of times, and I was fortunate enough to find out about it. One of my best friends since I was five years old. And he was, he, I even said, you know, what hospital are you in? He said, well, this is the hospital I’m in, but I’m not taking visitors. And I knew exactly what to say, because someone did this for me.

One time. I said, well, you don’t have to see me, but I’m coming. And I showed up at that hospital and he did tell the nurse he’d see me. And I think one of the reasons is he knows that I’ve been massively depressed. I’ve had thoughts of taking my own life. I know I never got to the point where I was going to do it that week.

I was like, I think I could get through a year of this. And then I’d probably go, but he knew that. So he was willing to let me come in and I think I was able to just be with him. Cause I, I had a sense of how hard and horrible it could be. That was holding space. I shifted from that though. It’s not like I’m always holding space.

I shifted from that to being a stand for him. And so I said things like you should, if there’s anything that you’ve said to me, That I think in, by sharing it with someone else, I can help keep you around longer or support you. You should count on me to share that information. Don’t expect that there’s going to be confidentiality.

If that’s involved. If I think it’s going to help you, I’m going to share it with anyone. I see fit. I want you to know that upfront. Okay. And then I went and called his, his father who he wasn’t talking to. I called his sister who hadn’t talked to in six years. I called his cousin. I got the family together and I went and got a camp, a caravan and got it delivered to his property.

So I could be on the property, but not in the house and be there. And he actually. Had an amazing recovery. There were a few times when he was very close and he called me and said, I K I do need help. I’ve just taken a jog. And I’ve been thinking for an hour about how I’m gonna, I’m going to end it. I said, okay, great.

Let’s get on there. Now. He’s one of the happiest people I know. So I, I like to think that this space holding and the non freaking out was something that was able to help.

[00:08:06] Meredith Bell: Hmm, that calmness that you brought and strength, you know, just hearing you describe what you did with him and those other two folks, there’s a strength that you bring that doesn’t even have to be.

Set out loud. They sense it. They feel it. And I know that that’s true with your business clients also let’s think about some of the issues that people in the business world experience, because some of them may feel really despondent at times, but many of them aren’t thinking as extreme as suicide. So talk a little bit about what is it, what are some of the issues they face, where you find it important to hold space?

For them and help them think through and work through

[00:08:51] David Wood: problems. What a wonderful question. So my brain goes to some business things and then my brain also goes to life things for business owners because life happens to business owners too. And I’m going to draw from my own experience recently.

You know, as a business owner, I have challenges and it’s hard to read the label from inside the jar. So I can’t, I can’t really see things curly. So I might be concerned about a promotion I’m doing, and I’m not sure if I’ve got, got the language quite right. Or I might, you know, have a cashflow concern. I’m like, I don’t really know how to handle that.

Or maybe it’s financing for the new house and I need some creative ideas. So those are some places where I might get coaching on how do I handle this, but the life stuff that’s been coming up so strongly for me recently. And I’m fairly, you know, even though I’ve had 20 years of anxiety and depression fairly stable, finances, relationships, community health, housing, like all of that.

Stuff’s fairly stable. And still, there are times when, like I have to move home. I may have to move house or there’s a noise trigger, and I got to deal like, how do I deal with that? Or I could have a fight with someone close to me and I’m, I’m feeling upset and I just, I’m not clear. I’m not really clear on what it is I even want or even need.

I just know I’m upset and how wonderful we able to talk those out with a coach or a therapist, friends, a good, I use friends all the time for this, but friends. Aren’t going to show up week after week and track what you’re doing and ask questions and hold you accountable necessarily. And, you know, plus there’s only so much that they’re going to listen to.

So I D I definitely use friends, but I don’t find it takes the place. Have a coach. So D does that cover a few different areas where someone might be feeling challenged and they’re like, I just, I gotta get clarity on this and I gotta work out what right. Action looks like.

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