What is it like to spend time with you?
What atmosphere are you striving to create in the space that you hold?
Let's explore the topic!
Holding space begins with being present.
I'm probably stating the obvious here, but absent minds don't foster healing environments. With busy schedules divvying up our attention, connections are often fleeting. And yet, the less time we have, the more important it is to tune in: Getting to know our community, showing genuine interest in our clients, colleagues and teams, and marvelling at the ease with which investing presence transforms relationships.
It continues with compassion.
Rather than trying to fix things or people, we must learn to trust that our clients are the experts on their situation, always. When we are holding space for someone, we are caring for them instead of controlling them. Withholding judgment. Through practicing humility, empathy and gentle guidance, and through fostering a culture of curiosity and lifelong learning, we empower and build confidence. In solution-focused dialogue, this is called taking a position of not knowing and leading from one step behind.
Give the least amount of advice possible.
(And that's... advice - you got me!)
This can be hard for anyone, especially those of us working in roles that are expected to give advice often. The more people are willing to listen to us, the harder it becomes to "read the room" and honour others in their needs. If you are influential, white, or male, you might be interested in reading Heather Plett's piece Holding Space When There Is An Imbalance In Power Or Privilege.
The physical space we share with others can make all the (positive) difference, though! Here'a a brief list of features of a safe space, borrowed and adapted from a great infographic on the topic published by The519, an LGBTQ organization in Toronto:
* Inclusive symbols, images and artwork
* Use of inclusive language
* Communication that goes both ways, not just top-down
* Thoughtfully chosen reading materials in waiting rooms
* Organizational policies that reflect the protection of human rights including gender identity and expression
You can find a few more general guidelines for welcoming spaces over at the American Planning Association, which has compiled a list of Characteristics of Great Public Spaces.
And if you are more interested in the visual aspects of interior design, you might find @OfficeWithCouch interesting, a little Instagram project I started on the side while decorating my own new counselling office at 1409 Yonge Street.