Warning: naughty language ahead!
Have you ever tried seeing what would happen in a situation if you just didn’t say anything at all?
Imagine this: you have an email all typed up to send out to remedy an issue or fire off your irritation and you decide not to send it. The situation works itself out anyway without your interference.
The first time I realized shutting the f*ck up could be magical, I was at my first job right out of college. I was a consultant at Arthur Andersen LLP (yes, the one that went down with the Enron ship). A colleague and I had messed up on a project and were called to the boss’ office. We sat down and our boss just looked at us.
After a few uncomfortable seconds, we told him everything.
Unbeknownst to us newbies, this was a tactic bosses use a lot—allowing the discomfort of silence to pry out the truth.
Fast forward a few years later and I’m getting a Master’s degree to become a high school Spanish teacher. They tell us we need to give our students three to five seconds to think before we expect an answer from them.
Five seconds can seem like an eternity. How often do we find ourselves cutting someone off before they can answer? Or thinking about our response as they are talking?
In my Yin Yoga classes, I have made silence with soft music in the background the norm. It took me a long time to learn that it was ok to just not say anything. But I worked on not talking as much because I wanted my classes to be a meditative practice for my students, so they could listen internally instead of just listening to me.
Silence is a useful tactic and one that we can incorporate into our most intimate relationships through a technique called “holding space.”
When we hold space for someone, we allow them to be who they are without interference from us—our agenda, ego or emotional stuff.
Normally when we talk with someone, we nod our heads or find ourselves agreeing or disagreeing with them. This is conversing. Holding space is a more neutral state.
We are saying to the person, “I am here. You are here. You are talking and expressing yourself and I am listening to you. I honor that you are having an experience and I am just here as a witness to that experience.”
Holding space in its simplest form is basically being quiet and not interjecting when someone is talking. In a purer sense, it involves an open heart and being free from judgment, even if that person is angry or somehow triggering an emotional reaction in us.
Holding space makes sense in intimate relationships. We give the other person the benefit of feeling truly heard and the comfort of being honest, because they know we are not going to interrupt or judge in any way.
Here’s how we can practice holding space:
1. Sit side-by-side or back-to-back with your friend or partner so you can’t see each other’s faces.
2. Allow one person to begin talking about the topic of discussion
3. The speaker talks about what is on his/her mind honestly and does not need to restrain him/her self when talking.
4. The listener sits quietly without nodding, moving or verbally responding in any way. This is the hard part. The listener also lets go of judgments & fears as best as he/she can.
5. The listener notices any emotional triggers that arise within.
6. The listener stops thinking about snacks.
7. The listener lets go of expectations and works to understand that what the other person is saying is based on his/her view of the situation.
8. Finally, swap roles.
We can also learn to hold space for ourselves. We begin by allowing our thoughts to flow and honoring them without judgment. We tell ourselves that it is ok to be feeling that way right now.
We allow ourselves to be who we are in that moment without criticism.
When we start to listen to ourselves and our intimate partners in this way, we create a greater understanding of our own patterns, triggers and limiting beliefs.
We allow others to be who they are and stand in our own power at the same time. We are able to both listen and honor the other person without being knocked off our own center.
Start to explore when and how to just shut the f*ck up and watch the magic unfold.
Author: Laura Haehl
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Courtesy of author, Credit: C. Irven/Lion Heart Vintage/Flickr