“Holding space” for you.

I learnt about this concept a few years ago, I think – making space for someone. It’s where you set aside space in your day to listen to and support someone you love. When you ‘make space’ for someone – you make a decision to love and care for them.

(Edit: Oh hahaha I’ve just done a Google search and the correct term is Hold Space for someone. Oops 😬)

Well *wry smile* that’s how I interpreted it, anyway.

So I wanted to write to you about the difference in the way I treat people who I have made space for V’s those I haven’t.

Photo by Gu00fcl Iu015fu0131k (?) on Pexels.com

My friend Aurelie, for instance – will call on a Thursday or Friday evening. It’s her “Mom night off” and she has free reign to do whatever she pleases while her husband takes over ‘kid watching’ for the night. Aurelie’s cute little pic will flash up on my phone and even as I’m answering her, I can hear her lighter clicking and her inhaling deeply on her bong. I smile to myself and think “here we go“. I turn the TV off, put the book I was reading away and I get myself comfortable and settled because talks with Aurelie last hours. I make space for her. I give her my full attention, listening with my entire being to every word she says – even if those words slur a bit towards the end or don’t make any sense,

I’m there for it. ALL OF IT.

I meet regularly with my mates and when I do, I make space for them.

Catherine and I meet for lunch at the Coffee Club almost every Saturday for lunch and maybe a movie. Often just lunch because nothing worthy of the ticket price seems to be out at the moment. I meet with Genevieve every few months for brunch at one of the pretty cafes along the river in East Perth. We’ll grab toasted sandwiches and freshly squeezed juice and talk for hours while we watch boats (expensive ones!) come and go. I meet Alison maybe every fortnight for lunch in the city and each time, we try a different bar or cafe. The last time we met up – maybe a few weeks back – we went to a Spanish bar and omg you guys – it was awesome. I loved the music, the exposed brick on the walls, the little share plates of yummy meats, breads and dips and the feeling that we’d honestly flown to Spain for the afternoon because so much thought had gone into creating the Bar/Cafe with a Spanish “atmosphere”.

I generally meet up with Samantha maybe once a month. Sam will drive over to my house, and we’ll NOT TALK, but we’ll sit close on the sofa and scroll quietly on our phones together. Sometimes, Sam will tilt her screen towards me “Is he hot?” and I’ll nod or scoff – she’ll swipe left or right accordingly. Sometimes I’ll tilt my phone towards Sam “Would this look nice in the living room?” and Sam will give her approval or disgust. I like that we can do LITERALLY NOTHING together and it’s a great afternoon.

With Caris, our ‘routine’ is to meet at Hunter and Barrell (a fancy bar with a Viking theme) for dinner once a week after work. We’ll order something “meaty” to share and we always start off with the turkish bread and bowl of melted cheese to dip it in. SO GOOD. Terry and I will smack-talk each other every time we meet up to verse each other in mini golf, Troy and I will argue passionately over our favourite songs and why we love them so much or we’ll connect and feel like “Best buds” over our love of great documentaries, Samantha and I will exchange books and include a bar of chocolate and the next time we meet up, we’ll give each other an honest book review, it’s awesome.


Before I start writing you a novel, I’ll get back to my point.

Making space.

When I’m with my friend, I make space for them. I set aside that time of the day for that specific friend and I give them my undivided attention. I listen with my whole heart, body, mind and soul to everything they’re saying – I listen to their body language and will reach out and squeeze their hand if I notice it’s shaking. I will playfully nudge or yell out an enthusiastic “YUSS!!! HIGH FIVE!” when I’m with a guy friend because guys seem to like the jostling and rivalry.

When you’re in my heart and I call you my friend – it’s because I’ve “held space” for you. So, when you’re with me, you’ll know you’re safe. You’re treasured. You’re cherished. I’ll hang on your every word. I’ll gasp with surprise when you reveal a secret or laugh with you when you tell me that embarrassing thing you did. I’ll cry with you when you miss your Dad (because I miss mine too, I know what you’re going through and it’s fucking painful) or had to put your pet down as they were too old and too ill, I’ll be there. I’ll cheer you on when you take on new challenges or just walk quietly beside you and let you rant when you’re mad/hurting.

I’ll also enable your naughty behaviour because I just want you to be happy so to hell with the rules! Smoke that bong! Smash that 6 pack of beers! Yes! Eat that cake! Enjoy that sexy massage, man! (*ahem*) – do whatever makes you happy because you’re not hurting anyone so if you’re going to ask “Janet – is this ok?” I’m going to encourage it. Soz not soz.

Why I’m writing this is because I DO NOT WANT TO MAKE OR HOLD SPACE FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE. As much as I want to be liked by everyone, I’m not. To be fair, I’m really annoying. On the flip side of that – as much as someone might want to be friends with me – they’re not always going to be successful. In this particular case, I can see that “Cupcake Kara” seems to be a good person, bless her – she’s REALLY FUCKING STUPID, and I honestly wonder at how she gets herself dressed and to work every day, but I can’t judge – I’m fairly stupid myself at times.

I think CK wants to be friends, though.

I do not want that.

Sorry, CK but you’re too fucking annoying for me and I spend 9 hours with you a day as it is – unwillingly. We work together. You are a work colleague.

I don’t want to hear about your divorce.

I don’t want to hear about the exploits of your ex. To be honest, I kind of side with him – you drive me nuts at work, I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for someone MARRIED to you!

I don’t care about your multitude of illnesses!!!

Because I’ve NOT made space for CK and DO NOT consider her a friend, I give short, polite, clipped answers and I hope – I really hope – that one day she’ll “catch on” that I want to keep things on a professional level with her and that she’ll stop telling me her overly personal (and very uncomfortable) stories.

I DON’T WANT TO MAKE SPACE FOR HER. I don’t want her to make space for me.

I’m addressing this today because a friend of CK’s passed away on the weekend and I know from previous experience that she’ll be hell bent on talking about it. All day. In great detail. Of course, I’m sad for her and I can empathize with the pain that losing a friend must cause. I offered my condolences and asked to make CK a cup of tea, she declined.


Because I’ve not made space for you, you complete nutter.

I’m really sorry your friend passed away and I honestly think you should have taken some time off to grieve that loss – but I don’t want to know all the ins and out of it, no sir.

CK – being her annoying self – IS TELLING ME ANY WAY.

“It’s been so hard, Janet” she’ll raise her voice and repeat this sentence, getting slightly louder each time so that I have NO CHOICE but to hear her over our ‘covid’ desk partitions.

“I can imagine. I’m really sorry about that. CK – I have to get this report out by noon, so I have to concentrate on this, ok?”

I would think this would send out a very CLEAR MESSAGE not to speak to me.

Does it, though? NOPE.

“We were friends for a while there” CK sighs loudly.

I take a deep breath and try my best to ignore her.

She stabs noisily at her keyboard for a few moments. That poor keyboard. My hope starts to rise that maybe – just maybe – she’s doing some ACTUAL WORK and will leave me alone.


“It’s just that I’m suffering so much” she’ll sigh dramatically.

I’ll keep typing and not offer anything up.

“SO MUCH!” She’ll raise her voice.


“I’m sorry to hear that” I’ll acknowledge.


“I’m left with this…pain”

oh God.

“I’m just left…bereft…and all this on top of losing my husband, too”

He’s not dead, CK. He just left you. Every day, I’m starting to realise why.

If CK was a friend – I’d message her on TEAMS something like “I’m hurting for you and I know you’ll feel tender and sad today. I’m thinking of you. How about we go to lunch together this arvo? I’ll treat you to pancakes or something comforting and you can say – or not say – anything you need to, I’m here xxxx”

But since she’s not, I will leave things at “I’m so sorry for your loss” NOW PLEASE SHUT UP.


12 responses to ““Holding space” for you.”

  1. Like oil and water. Well done, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve had a colleague or two like that as well. You have a very humorous way of writing about it. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one, Kelly. Hahaha we either laugh or cry with colleagues that drive us crazy, hey? In case you ever wonder, I will “hold space” for you, my friend. Always.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You better believe I would do the same for you, my Aussie friend.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s important, definitely xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be even better if I got the name right! Hahahaha it’s actually called “Holding Space” for someone. Oops.


  3. Honestly, we all have those people that try to ingratiate themselves to us. In the case of CK you have NO OBLIGATION to take her shit on. It’s not even about holding space, or not, for her; it’s about holding space for YOU. You know, the one you have to go home to every night. She seems like the type of “friend” that only has a litany of complaints about how everything is always bad for her anyway. Not even remotely interesting for anyone else.

    I would shut her down though. You’re way more tolerant than I am. In the case of her ex, I’d tell her, “yeah, I have exes too. I get it, and I don’t need to be reminded. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I can’t discuss it and I am at work. I want to focus on this report. Thank you for understanding.” End of story. If she keeps trying, I wouldn’t even offer an “uh huh.” She can get as loud as she wants, it is not my responsibility to make sure she doesn’t look like a nutter; it’s hers. In the case of the friend, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine losing a friend like that. It must be extremly painful and even traumatizing. You should probably take time off to handle the emotional strain and considering the trauma, I’d speak to a therapist as well. I am very sorry for your loss, but do not know how else to help you and I do not want to say or do the right thing considering how difficult this is for you, I don’t want to compound your clear pain. So I am going to resume my work so that you can have the space that you need to sort through your thoughts. I am sorry, and I do suggest speaking to someone qualified about it so that it doesn’t distress you for too long.” Then I’d resume my work. If she wants to walk around all day talking to the potted plants about her loss, that’s her choice, but I will not acknowledge it again other than to offer getting her that cup of tea or saying I’m running to the store to pick up coffee, does she want anything. That’s it. It’s more than I would usually do, so it is giving a clear sign I understand it’s difficult for her, but it’s also conclusively a “SHUT UP, I get you want to complain about it, but I don’t want to hear it.” And at no point are you being rude. Just clear.

    And with me, as an American, I follow the rules of baseball: three strikes and you’re out. She mentions her ex, I’d say the above to her. The second time gets an abbreviated version of the above. The third time, she gets an “I’ve addressed this subject multiple times already and I am still not comfortable discussing it. I am sorry, but you need to stop trying to bring this up to me as I am here to work not discuss your personal life.” The fourth time and after would simply get an immediate, “no.” before I’d walk away. Not even a stop, just “no.” If she persists despite these clear signs, after enough “no” to fill the deep end of a pool, I’d tell her, “I cannot be more clear about this, as I have requested you respect this boundary of allowing me to work while at work. If you persist, I will honestly be forced to ask for assistance in explaining it to you as I am out of words now. I will go to [HR/Manager, etc] if I have to. Please don’t make me do that. I really and truly will not address this again.” But, as I said, Ii have limited patience with such nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely LOVE how you would have handled this, Marla – polite but firm and it doesn’t invite further conversation. Thank you so much for your wisdom and practical advice xx


      1. You’re welcome. I just have dealt with these people before, and they drive me insane. But I demand that they respect my boundaries. And yes, they have reported me for creating a “hostile” environment. I have been called into HR or the managers office for standing my ground. They can give me a lecture all they want, when it’s my turn to speak, I remind them that I was hired to do a job, as was she. They pay us both to do them. I come to work so that I can do my job to the best of my ability and be compensated for doing it, and I am compensated because of my output. At no point did I apply or get hired to have to engage my coworkers in lengthy and detailed conversations about their lives and the drama they deal with outside of work. I explain that I have always been sure to be respectful as she is having a difficult time with [fill in the blank with as many specifics without BEING too specific, like “her divorce,” “the death of her friend,” her… and rattle off at least three] but it is not hostile to request that I don’t have to bombarded daily with her problems when I am trying to work. Make a point of saying that you are always immediately willing to engage in conversation that is work related, it’s the personal conversations that she wants to carry on all day that you can’t engage. Be sure to say all of it respectfully. Not because your job is in trouble or because of anything other than you’re showing that you’re not hostile toward her or the idea of her, you merely are requesting the respect of not having to hear it. If asked, explain that you had not reported her because you understand that personal life, especially when particularly stressful, bleeds into work, and you never wanted to punish her more than she’s already suffering, you just ask that she understands that she needs to stop demanding you get involved. Maybe they can help with that?

        They can’t ever come back from that. Here is an employee who is asking for their help, but didn’t do it before because they have been trying to give the other employee respect for what she’s going through, space and time to work through it, and doesn’t seem to have a disrespectful or hostile bone in her body. Usually, they will call the other back in and ask for specifics about what was hostile and the other employee will hem and haw. Nothing was hostile. Or they’ll say something vague about how you refuse to talk to them during an entire shift making it difficult to do their jobs. That’s ok, they will be asked for a specific conversation that you shot down. If their answer is not work related, they just made their own bed and you initiated nothing to create this problem (don’t feel bad, they literally did all of it themselves). If they have an answer that IS work related, their answer would generally be only one thing (your list of no-no conversations was at least three, so, your list is bigger), and I know enough about you to know that her answer would be insane. Like “she refused to answer my question about how to use the photocopier.” Everyone knows you load the paper and push the green buttons. Literally everyone. And she sounds crazy. Also, she just clearly used an example from ages ago because she can clearly make copies now. (Woah, that was a random example that seemed stupid, but I remember another post now that you said she was fiddling with the copier asking dumb questions about it 😂). Not one of her examples would actually be you being rude or difficult. Also, it’s likely that if this HR/manager person is good at their job, they will make this interview more conversational so that she doesn’t feel on guard. They will drop things into the conversation like “by the way, I am truly sorry for your loss.” Simple, honest, and also does not invite more about it other than a thank you from her (maybe thank you he was a good guy). If they did it anywhere close to right, she is the type that will say, “thank you! He was such a good friend. We met back when… and… I feel, it effects me, I remember, I liked, etc” surprised, the interviewer will probably let it go on for about two minutes after they stopped being surprised, you know, just to be polite, but then call an end to her endless recollections (as they don’t know her or honestly care), and she just proved YOUR point. And since you work with her all the time and could name at least three (but never more than five or you start sounding like you’re complaining AND you **will** start sounding tired as your tone can’t help but change – you’ll get the blah blah blah tone which you need to avoid) different situations she is dealing with, they now get it. They will be forced to explain to her (politely as they already know she likes to complain about everything) what a proper work environment is, how you are in fact NOT making it hostile, and what proper conversations entail at work. Likely, they’ll even use some of what you said when you described proper behavior at work to them

        Just remember: you’ve done nothing wrong here. Even if you get called in, you have still done nothing wrong. But listen when they tell you what her complaint is. It will tell you much more about her than she ever could. If she gets you called in for a hostile work environment because you don’t want to listen to her go on and on, don’t take sides in your head between her and her ex, that’s unfair to her (the one you know and see every day). Instead, focus on her (like she always does). Understand that she is a hurting person who doesn’t understand boundaries, and doesn’t know how to handle hurt and failure in her life and lashes out. By focusing it on her, you will find a deeper reserve of compassion and empathy for her (which makes your life easier and guarantees you don’t actually get hostile), and reinvigorates your understanding of how important maintaining boundaries with her really is. If she thinks theirs more to your relationship than coworkers, you are now something she can complain about to her real friends. You don’t need to care about that because who cares what they think, but also recognize that if they stop caring, you’re going to have to answer questions again. So just keep your attention and sympathy with her (quietly). You’re guessing about what his reason for leaving her was anyway. He hurt her and he’s the asshole, as she says. Even if you know for a fact from her lips that he was right, a hurting woman is in front of you for a choice he made, so he’s an ass (as she would be if he was your coworker. This is not man hate, this is merely choosing the side of the person that is hurting solely because of their pain and not their justification for whatever happened). She’s in pain and he has a gf. He’s a meany. You can’t call him a jerk or anything more because he might not have been, but he’s a meany because she hurts. Keeping that in mind will make you stronger in your ability to be gentle with her rather than scream in her face, and her complaint will strengthen your conviction of arms-distance.

        I hope that makes sense.

        As I’ve said, I have had a number of jobs and you always have one coworker like this. And sometimes, even WE are that coworker. Not consistently though, but sometimes life becomes so much we bring it with us to work and have a horrible day because of it. Sometimes it becomes so overwhelming, we actually talk about it when asked rather than say “it’s just been a day/week/millennium.” But we can take the hint our coworker doesn’t care. I work with one now as well. They leave me out of it, mostly; but they love to bother the secretary. I don’t understand it, because she is SO dismissive. I handle it the way I explained and they leave me alone. She just lets them talk, puts in her AirPods, and watches TikTok and laughs at goofy ones while they’re still talking. Somehow, that’s not a clear sign to them.

        My basic rule is: complain about work all you want. I might not listen to you, but go ahead. We’re at work and you have been annoyed. Complain (in common areas like by the photocopier, but when I’m at my desk, I honestly don’t care). I will do the same when I need to. But your personal life, if it can be in smaller doses, fine, but a barrage of info is a no. If we are friends outside of work, I will talk to you about it after because you’re my actual friend. If we aren’t, then I honestly don’t need to listen to how you miss your great grandmother’s neighbor who you met when you were two and she died and you remember her bunyon. I don’t care.

        In this, take care of you. Pick you. And part of picking you is to not be what you’re not. You’re not cruel (despite her efforts to push you there, you haven’t crossed over). I e only seen your kind and respectful side. You’re a ball of support. You’re offering them all to her, but in a way that protects your sanity. You are kind because you listened (kinda) the first time. You are respectful in your requests for her to shut up already. You are supportive by directing her toward a situation where she can get the support she deserves (therapy). You are being the perfect version of you, while also not saying “uh huh,” “I’m sorry,” or “ok” 9000000 times a day or being interrupted just as often.

        Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

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