Have you ever been told ‘it could be worse’ when talking about a problem you’re dealing with personally or on the farm? Sometimes it can feel like people are critical, judgmental, or just don’t get it. This can cause us to withdraw and isolate, which means we don’t get the connection and support that can help us through the storms of life.

As farmers we tend to have a harder time opening up to someone, so the chances that we will talk to someone when stressed or struggling might be even more reduced. It feels risky to be vulnerable as we might worry that they not only judge us, but our farm operations as well. However, if we can find someone that has the capacity to ‘hold space’, then talking about our problems will feel more comfortable.

How to hold space

Holding space is about creating an environment which allows someone to just be as they are in that moment.

  1. Be non-judgemental and compassionate.
    Essentially, when we hold space, we create a calm shelter to talk openly and honestly. The key is to let go of judgement and to instead recognize we all go through hard times.
  2. Genuinely listen.
    We also need to listen to understand. There is no pressure, no leading, no advice- just intent listening and forming a connection. As farmers, we are programmed to fix things, so it can be tempting to jump in with problem-solving. We might say, ‘you just need to do a, b and c…” It can feel uncomfortable to listen to someone’s pain or difficulties, yet in doing so, it can help the person feel valued and understood.
  3. Be present.
    Holding space means showing up for someone and being fully present as we sit with that person through their difficult time.  Being present is not easy, particularly when we have our own pressures, problems and so much to do! However, holding space takes less time than problem-solving and can truly ease the burdens others’ carry. It can also create a circle of trust and support that goes both ways.

In this hectic, demanding farm life, we need to be kinder and more caring with one another. The act of “holding space” is a wonderful gift to give and receive.

By Lorie Smith from Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week  @gb_farmersweek

For professional supports that can hold space, please see our Resources

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