Right before I sat down to write this, I was walking down the sunny sidewalk past a group of school children who were having a lesson outside. As I went by, I heard one of the teachers say to a child “…now here’s where I’m going to challenge you to do a little more…” As a coach, I smiled to myself, because it’s a phrase I’ve used myself many times, and to some very good results. But honestly, in my coaching, it’s a phrase I only use sometimes. Not everyone needs to be challenged. So often, what I find is that people need to have someone simply hold space for their truth in the moment. Challenges are great for folks when they’re ready for it, but there’s something magical about holding space.

What do I mean by “holding space?” All I mean, really, is helping someone to slow down and stay with something important. Maybe it’s a feeling, or an epiphany, or a certain truth. For example, I was talking with someone the other day who had had an unexpected argument with her partner. She had lots to process about it, and after she unpacked the details of what happened, she said “I just don’t know what to do with the fact that he said that.”

2 girls in blue dress shirt lying on black surface There! Right there! She had just uncovered the crux of her concern. That was the moment to slow down, stay with that feeling, and explore.

This is what I mean about holding space. It’s just about pausing in an important moment and letting it be true. If we had charged ahead and searched for “solutions” to her situation we would have missed a valuable opportunity to learn more about what was really needed. She was angry and confused, and planning a response when anger and confusion are in the driver’s seat rarely produces the most beneficial outcome. What’s underneath the anger and confusion? Is there hurt to address? Is there a trigger that has been ignored? Is there a pattern that hasn’t been acknowledged? 

When we’re holding space, we can compassionately address the actual source of the feelings, which might mean we’re crafting a solution to a different problem than previously thought. In this example, if we were only addressing the actual argument with her partner, she might have leaned toward a solution that (for example) set boundaries around what she and her partner talk about. “I guess I just can’t talk about that with him.” Yes, that would be a possible route, but it would still leave her with that sense of hurt and confusion. On top of that, it could result in her feeling even more alone with her pain, since her partner was eliminated as a source of support.

Please know, holding space does not always instantly reveal the perfect solution. It’s actually not about finding the perfect solution. It’s more about understanding the terrain and learning everything we can about what’s there. When we do that, something shifts. Feelings tend to soften, deeper breaths are taken, and there’s more room for ease and exploration. It’s from this place that the way forward can carefully make itself known. It can feel slower, but really, it’s a much more direct route to real change because we’re tending to what really needs tending to

I will admit, I love learning about this kind of thing. After already completing two other coach training programs, I was thrilled to discover that The Hakomi Institute was offering their first ever training for coaches. Normally, they only train therapists, so I leapt at this chance to learn from them. The program started in April, and I’m thrilled with what I’ve been learning. These people take their work seriously, and for them, this means that they take the idea of holding space seriously. It’s a concept I’ve respected for a long time, and with this learning, I feel myself becoming better and better at holding space. As this skill develops, I’m not at all surprised to find that it translates into better coaching, deeper work, and happier clients. What a thrill!

So let’s talk! What is happening in your life that would benefit from some attention? Where could you use some support? Be it relationships, big life decisions, parenting, a desire to change unhelpful habits, or any other sense of stuckness, there is a compassionate space for all of it. It would be an honor to be an ally in your explorations.

How to get started? Feel free to book a complimentary, 20 minute consultation to see if coaching is the right path for you. You can ask me questions, let me know where you’re feeling stuck, and generally get a better idea of what coaching with me has to offer. You can book with me here, or you can check out my other website with Nurture Life Coaching. Either option is a way forward!

Until then, I wish you lots of space in all of your hopes!

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