Creating Space and Being Present

Jun 15, 2022 20:59 · 440 words · 3 minutes read life-tips mental-health

Some time ago, I noticed that people close to me primarily talked about their challenges/problems. Consequently, to liven things up, I began starting my conversations with the question: “What is the highlight of your week/day?” This however back-fired on one of my dear ones whereby they never felt heard. They felt ignored. The optimistic question: What is the highlight of your week/day? came off as dismissive; and this particular event sparked an entire conversation about what it means it be present; and what it means creating space for someone.

Being present and creating space go hand in hand. Common in both of them, you have to put in some work to be a good listener, as oppossed to just “hearing” what the other interlocutor is saying. Here are some rough pointers that characterize good listening and being present:

  • When listening, try to repeat what the other person just said in your own words to demonstrate your understanding. Usually, when you are off, you will be corrected.
  • Conversely, if you don’t feel heard, request the other person to repeat your ideas. That may go something like this: “What do you think I’m trying to say?”
  • Should there be a major event, first acknowledge it’s significance. As an example, say the other person is having a difficult time at work. Instead of just bull-dozing through the conversation into some other topic, spare a few sentences to acknowledge what they are going through. That may resemble: “Wow! Work is tough huh? Sorry you are going through this.”
  • People don’t want solutions. Should you feel the itch to give one, ask you interlocutor if they want/need it. Here’s one of my favourite phrases: “Do you want to hear my opinions on the matter?”
  • Conversations are not debates/arguments; and if they are, acknowledge them as such pretty early on. That said, be careful with how you give criticism. People tend to put up walls when they feel attacked, and as such, when having a conversation, you should be wary of this.
  • Should a conversation be offensive, you can politely leave, instead of spending more mental energy on a draining activity.
  • In some situations, it’s fine to ask the other person what being present looks like; and what being heard feels like. Let them help you out in figuring this out.

To close this post, I want to highlight the fact that you may not always have the mental energy to be a good listener or be present in a conversation. That’s ok. You can let the other person know, and should they want your full presence, you can post-pone your conversation to a later time.