It was a revelation in many ways. Our daughter had shared the school with us in a small tour when we visited earlier in the year, but this was the official version. She and a friend are regularly leading tours for prospective students in their spare time, and so they were assigned to our group. We got to see them do their actual spiel. It was wonderful, and they were so good at pointing out everything from architectural features to history, while sharing their positive experiences as first year law students at Vanderbilt.
We know, of course, that it is actually the hardest thing our daughter has ever done. We know the challenges, difficulties, disappointments and her feelings because she shares many of them with us. We listen, commiserate, encourage and try very hard not to direct her or solve her problems. They are truly hers to deal with as she sees fit along the way.
I recently participated in a spiritual leadership pilgrimage retreat and along with meditation and observation techniques, we learned about “holding space” for another person.
Feel free to try it yourself. Try consciously letting another person do all of the talking for five minutes. You say nothing, but listen intently and hold that time for them to talk about whatever is on their mind…or even to stay silent.
I won’t kid you; it is incredibly hard to do. Your mind will try to race to the next thing you want to say, or a story that relates to what they are saying, or distractions that will try to divert you from your intent. If you can tame those impulses and stay on course, the rewards are surprising.
As human beings, we crave one thing almost as much as we crave sustenance, shelter and safety. We crave to be understood. When we find understanding, we are so grateful and feel such a strong connection to those we feel offer it to us.
You can offer this gift to your spouse, your children, your friends and family…anyone! Just hold space for them in a conversation. You can tell them you are doing this, or just do it. You can ask for the same gift from another person after they have experienced it. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.
Thanks for holding space for me while I shared this with you.
This post was published April 4, 2012 in the Story Circle Network “One Woman’s Day” blog.