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What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone

I recently came across a powerful article by Heather Plett on “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone.” It resonated strongly with me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be truly inclusive and believe that part of inclusivity is making space for people impacted by social problems to be leaders of the change rather than speaking for them. In my role as a consultant at Community Wealth Partners, I often hear colleagues talk about “holding space” or “making space” as an important key in addressing the systems of oppression that keep people marginalized. The concept has always struck a chord with me but I never knew what it meant to do that in practice. This article gives a beautiful and clear description of what “holding space” means and eight practical tips for holding space for others.

If you prefer the SparkNotes version, here are some excerpts from the article that stood out for me:

“When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control…”

“To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (i.e. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (i.e. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (i.e. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

The author also shares the following eight tips to help you hold space for others:

  1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.
  2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.
  3. Don’t take their power away.
  4. Keep your own ego out of it.
  5. Make them feel safe enough to fail.
  6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.
  7. Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc.
  8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

How do you hold space for others? Let us know in the comments.

Allison Brown

About Allison Brown

As a consultant, Allison Brown leads client engagements, advises and coaches leaders, and spearheads internal teams to develop solutions and deliverables through research and analysis. She has a strong background in social enterprise strategy, with a focus on education and women’s empowerment initiatives. Her expertise is specifically centered around expansion planning, developing sustainable business models, and leading communication strategies. See Allison’s full bio.

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