• The BOULDER Man

Holding space for authentic friendships

If you want to have the ability to really have your friends back, learn to hold space for them.



Have you ever been in a situation where you know that a friend is carrying something heavy, but is unable to share what is really going on? Or in a situation where you really wanted to support a friend but did not know how to do so effectively? Or you've been in a situation where we really wanted to get something off of your chest, but the end result made you feel judged, and as if the person did not hear you or understand you?


I think we’ve all been there. And it can be personally frustrating when we see a friend that is clearly going through something or struggling, and we are not able to help them.


The best friendships are built. They don’t happen overnight. And holding space allows those layers to start to grow. And as the layers grow, the foundation of the friendship starts to strengthen.

It is an honour to have the ability to hold space for another man because it deepens the friendship's foundation in a real, authentic, and human experience. The best friendships are built. They don’t happen overnight. And holding space allows those layers to start to grow. And as the layers grow, the foundation of the friendship starts to strengthen.


“Holding space” means being physically, mentally and emotionally present with another man. It means standing in the fires of what they are experiencing, with them, in order to support them. It is not a skill that we all naturally have, but something that is essential for authentic connection, and the ability to foster more meaningful friendships.


If you want to have more meaningful and authentic friendships in your life, here is a couple of important aspects to consider when you hold space for another person:


1. Location


When you’re supporting a friend and holding space for them, location can be critical. It needs to provide a safe, and non-judgmental space where they can express (both in words and emotion), the totality of what they are going through. Inviting a friend out for a beer, may not be the best location. So pick somewhere that will facilitate an open and honest discussion. A place that will make them feel free to express the totality of their experience and thoughts, and a platform for vulnerability to really go deep into what they are feeling and experiencing.


2. Don’t make it about yourself


Remember that you are holding space for another person who is sharing their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. There may be an urge for you to want to relate to their story, by telling your own in order to make them feel safe, but you run the risk of telling your own story and getting your friend to disconnect from theirs.


3. Uncomfortable silence


If there is silence, let it be. We have a tendency to want to fill uncomfortable silence with conversation. Sometimes, the silence is exactly what the friend needs in order to move on to the next sentence. Reassure them, and tell them that you are there for them.


4. When you need to delve a little deeper


Sometimes there is a need for the person who holds space to delve a little deeper into the words that are being said in order for the other to really start opening up. You can help them to articulate their feelings and emotions. Avoid the question “Why?". This can invoke a sense of defensiveness because the friend now needs to defend what they are feeling. Instead, ask “How come?” to help them to delve a little deeper into their experience.


5. No judgement


It is critical that you do not judge your friend in any way, shape or form, for the experience that they are going through, or the thoughts, feelings and emotions that they are expressing. Judgement is what keeps us in our shell, isolating us, and keeps us from speaking about the topics that we struggle with. Instead, use this as an opportunity to get to know your friend better. After holding space for another man, you get to see parts of them, that they would not normally share with anyone.


6. Curiosity


Realize that there is another human being sitting in front of you who’s having a human experience. If you’re curious about what it is that they’re going through, what they’re experiencing, and how you can support them, you'll get to know them better, and in turn, deepen the friendship you already have.


7. When you are the topic of the struggle being shared


Realize that what is being shared, is the experience of another person. It can get messy, and if you want to have real, authentic and meaningful friendships, there is a real possibility for that. That is okay. Holding space provides a platform for a lot of feelings, thoughts and emotions to come out, and to be looked at more objectively by the person sharing.


8. The Check-In


This is probably one of the more critical aspects of holding space. It helps confirm that you were listening and that you care. This may occur a couple of days after or even a week. But reach out to your friend, thank them for their vulnerability, honesty, and how truthful they were. And check in on how they are doing now that they have expressed their thoughts. They may need more assistance.


It is an honour to have the ability to hold space for another man because it deepens the friendship's foundation in a real, authentic, and human experience.

Some more things to avoid when holding space:


1. Don’t give them advice unless they ask


The point of holding space is for another person to express what they are going through, and feeling supported both physically, mentally and emotionally. They are not looking for advice unless they specifically ask for it. And in the case of advice, you still need to hear the entire narrative, before you would be able to effectively provide advice. Advice may relay to the friend that there is something wrong that needs to be fixed and result in them feeling as if they are being judged. So tread carefully.


2. Don’t make a joke


Joking about an experience that another person is going through while holding space, can communicate to them that you are uncomfortable with the situation or the subject, and judge them for it.


What it all boils down to is authentic curiosity, connection & support


When listening to what another man is experiencing - their thoughts, believes, emotions - you’ll realize that you have a lot in common.


At the end of the day, if you effectively hold space for another man, it is a positive experience for you both; even if the subject matter that you may have delved into felt really heavy.


Holding space from a high level really boils down to the ability to allow another person to be seen, felt and heard; and we all need that from time to time.


So if you want to have more meaningful and authentic friendships in your life, learn the skill of holding space.

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