Holding Space to Feel Connected


by Director of Community Life Michael Eatman

How would it feel if we could really talk about the impact of our life experiences? What if we could release what’s building inside us – the tensions, fears, and worries – without feeling judged?

It would be great if we could share our truths; however, sometimes we hesitate, unsure how those truths will land. As we continue to strengthen our community, I think it’s important to periodically check in with each other and support those who may feel disconnected. Master diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah published The Art of Practicing Mindfulness, in which he writes that disconnection is a way of protecting ourselves from hurt or rejection: “The emotions behind the disconnection are the needs to be felt, expressed and heard.” Holding space is one way to meaningfully connect with others.

So what does it mean to hold space?
Writer and coach Heather Plett says, “We hold space when we are willing to walk alongside another in whatever journey they’re on, without judging them, making them feel inadequate, or trying to impact the outcome.” When we hold space for someone, we are seeking to understand the impact of their life experiences.
We can all take the opportunity to hold space for each other.

Here are a few ideas I’ve found helpful:

  1. Listen to understand, without judgment.
  2. Be curious and open to hearing the other person’s experiences. Often there is a story to be told: family history, cultural appropriation, or involvement in social or political discourse.
  3. Do not try to change or fix anything. Embrace the intimacy of hurt and anger.
  4. Be present. You are holding a safe space for the other person to express their feelings.

Holding space is not always easy. It can be uncomfortable, triggering embarrassment, anxiety, or anger. It can also create hope and growth.

When we make the choice to enter through vulnerable tunnels of truth and hold space for each other, we clear a pathway for compassion. We can gain insight into our cultural differences, and invite trust in our relationships. As we become the community that we need, we must notice our disconnects more frequently and hold space for each other compassionately.

To be a part of conversations like this in real time, please join us for our next Family Council on Tuesday, February 12, at 6:30pm in the Community Room.

The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit pikeschool.org to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page.

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