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June 29, 2024

Three Words That Can Change Everything // The Secret to Fulfilling Conversations

When someone opens up, raises a sensitive issue, or shares feedback, our natural reaction can often be defensiveness. This defensiveness can show up in different ways, such as cutting the person off, telling them they’re wrong by justifying our actions, or immediately giving unsolicited advice. These kinds of responses can shut conversations down and build walls. Thankfully, there is an antidote, and it’s one simple word: curiosity. When we hold space for someone and get curious, we are saying, “I see you, I love you, you are important to me.”
A simple, surefire way to help get curious is three little words: “tell me more.” This open-ended statement communicates, “I want to hear you. What you are experiencing is important to me.” Being curious can foster an environment for connection, learning, and healing. It is my passionate belief that when we talk about our hurts and frustrations, we start to heal and disempower them.
Holding space is about being present and fully engaged in conversation without judgment or the need to fix things. It’s about allowing the other person to express themselves freely. When we hold space for someone, we give them the gift of being seen and validated, which is a fundamental human need we all have in common.

The Benefits of Holding Space:

  1. Inner Calm: By not jumping to defensiveness or immediately trying to solve the problem, we reduce our own stress and anxiety. We can learn to be comfortable with listening and not having all the answers. It’s freeing!
  2. Deeper Connections: When we listen wholeheartedly and show genuine interest, we strengthen the relationship because we are communicating, “You are important to me.”
  3. Reduced Triggers: When we focus on being curious, we are less likely to be triggered by what is being said because we are focusing on understanding the other person’s perspective and feelings. We can learn to separate our own beliefs from theirs, which leads to fewer conflicts and misunderstandings.

How to Hold Space and Get Curious:

  1. Actively Listen: Focus on what the other person is saying without planning your response. Truly listen to the words, nod, make eye contact, and use verbal affirmations like “I see” or “That sounds frustrating.”
  2. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Instead of questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, ask questions that encourage elaboration. For example, “How does that feel for you?” or “If you could have that moment back, how would you like it to be different?”
  3. Avoid Interrupting: Let the other person finish their thoughts before you respond. This shows respect and allows them to express themselves fully. When we feel like interrupting, it’s safe to say that we are not genuinely listening, and we may be caught up in our own thoughts about the topic. The key is to listen so we genuinely understand what is being said, and sometimes saying nothing at all can prompt sharing.
  4. Reflect Back: Summarize what the person has said to show that you are listening and to ensure you have understood correctly. For example, “That sounds quite frustrating, and I can see how it would have you feeling unappreciated.” This kind of reflective statement is validating.
  5. Practice Patience: Holding space takes practice and patience. And the more we practice something, the better we get at it.
Holding space, asking questions, and getting curious are powerful tools that can transform our relationships and our relationship with ourselves. By learning to hold space, we create an environment where people feel seen, heard, and valued. I believe that curiosity can open the door to both compassion and empathy, which can only strengthen our connections with ourselves and others. As we practice these skills, we can cultivate inner calm and foster deeper, more meaningful relationships.
Remember, every time we choose to hold space and get curious, we are saying, “I see you. I love you. You are important to me.” This is a gift that can profoundly impact the lives of those we love.

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