WTF Is Holding Space? (A Man’s Guide)

“I need you to hold space for me.”
These words get tossed around A LOT in modern relationships, but most people have no clue what it is or how to do it.
In a workshop I led recently, the concept of ‘holding space’ came up.
I asked how many people had heard of this concept and the entire audience raised their hand.
Then I asked how many could define it or effectively knew how to do it…
Crickets. Only 2 hands raised.
One of the men spoke up and said “my wife asks me to do this all the time, but I haven’t got a clue what it means or how to do it. I assumed it just meant shut up and listen, but that doesn’t seem to work either. She often says i don’t understand her, that I’m always trying to fix her or that I’m cold and emotionless.”
“Same here” “Me too,” said a few of the guys in the room.
Then, I asked the women in the room what the impact or result would be if their partner could hold space for them properly.
“I’d finally feel heard.”
“I’d feel like he understood me!”
“I’d feel more emotionally connected which would make me more connected at an intimate level.”
“I would feel like he was compassionate and empathetic.”
“When my partner has been able to hold space for me, I’m always more open to physical connection afterward.”
Clearly, this was an important topic men needed and wanted to understand.
First, let’s agree on what holding space is NOT.

Holding space is not:

  • Just Listening
  • Trying to fix, solve or provide alternative points of views for your partner
  • Disconnecting or diminishing your partner’s emotional experience
  • A one-way conversation
  • Being disconnected from your own experience.

I asked the men to share their past experiences of trying to hold space to really drive home the point.
One man summed it up by saying “I feel like I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried being completely silent and listening, I’ve tried fixing the problem, offering suggestions and I’ve even tried just agreeing with everything she’s said. Nothing seems to work and I’m almost ready to give up.”
So what IS holding space?
Here’s my definition:

“Holding space is the process of witnessing someone else’s emotional state while simultaneously being present to your own.”

This means the person holding space has double duty.
If you are the person holding space, you need to be tuned into your own judgments, emotions, desired outcomes and opinions all while understanding what’s happening for the other person.
Holding space goes beyond listening because it requires us to hear the other person, have empathy and not make the situation about us by trying to ‘give insight’ fix or ‘offer advice.’
Think of it this way; when you hold space, you are creating a container for the other person’s emotions to come up, be seen without the interference of your own and be released.
Holding space it’s like creating a metaphorical bucket for someone to emotionally and verbally vomit into.
Sounds classy, right?
Holding space doesn’t mean you remove or avoid your own emotions and it doesn’t mean you get sucked into their emotional state because then you’ll both need a bucket.
But how do we effectively hold space? How do we create this bucket? Knowing what something is and knowing how to do it are two very different things.

The 3 things you need to know about holding space:

1. Awareness Is Crucial. 

Your emotions, thoughts, and opinions are going to get in the way.
If you want to ‘build the bucket,’ or really hold space, you’ll need to master the art of noticing your own internal processes while observing theirs.
Being able to see what you think and feel is essential. It’s what all really exceptional listeners, leaders, and therapists do.
They hear what you say, feel what you’re feeling all while noticing (without judgment or attachment) what their own thoughts and feelings are about the situation.
Without this awareness, you will fall into the trap of trying to effect an outcome based on your own desires or opinions.
The outcome of holding space is not decided by something you’ve done, it’s determined by something you’ve created. 
Awareness is so crucial because as human beings we are easily influenced by other’s emotional states. Think about someone who is quick to anger. When you’re around them, it’s much easier to become frustrated, annoyed and angry than normal. Why? Because of transference and emotional mirroring. Put simply, if not aware, you take on the emotions of others.
The point here is that you need to be equally aware of your own thoughts and emotions as you are of the person you’re hiding space for. The goal is not to be empty or devoid of emotions, the goal is simply to be aware so you don’t react from those emotions.
Oh, and put your damn technology away. You’re not holding space properly with your phone out, email open or TV on. Be Present.

2. It’s Not About You.

As much as you will feel the need to fix, solve, be right or ‘of service,’ the best thing you can do is realize that the whole conversation and point of holding space is to make the conversation about their experience and not about yours.
Notice how when you’re trying to fix or solve a problem, it’s more about your own validation than your partners. If you want real validation, use the law of reciprocity: give that which you want to get.
Here are a few things that help create the bucket and shift the focus onto them:

  • Give them permission to share, permission to trust their instincts/intuition and trust their internal wisdom.
  • Create the space for them to make decisions or take actions that might be different than your own.

3. Validation, validation, val-i-da-tion

Let’s make one thing clear, you don’t need to agree with them to validate them.
The biggest trap people fall into when holding space is that they are looking for evidence to AGREE with before they feel like they can give validation.
When this happens, validation of any form is a challenge because the person holding space is trying to understand the situation and emotions associated with it based on their own view of reality.
In general, the masculine will struggle with this. The masculine will want to understand someone logically before validating their partner’s emotional experience. (Notice, I’m not saying MEN, but the masculine. More logical, analytical women can get caught in this trap too.)
There are two important things about validation:
The other person needs to feel understood. This means you have to take a different view point, put yourself in their reality for a minute and understand why they are thinking and feeling that way.
Reflecting back their thoughts/feelings is the best way to do this. (remember, you don’t need to agree, simply understand).
Really listen for the core of the issue they are having. Mirror back what they say the issue is and take the time to validate their emotions. You’d be surprised how many people are simply looking to be understood and be told that they aren’t crazy (like they’ve been telling themselves in their head).
Finally, trust them.
Trust that they can handle their shit.
Trust them to navigate their emotional turmoil, solve their problems and trust in their ability to find what they need.
And remember – the bigger the problem, the bigger the bucket, the longer you’ll need to hold it.

Man Of The Week – Giovanni Marsico

Our newest Man Of The Week is a Giovanni Marsico, a man of many talents, from a connector of driven entrepreneurs, to an author of his upcoming book titled ‘The Gifted Entrepreneur’. Today, Giovanni is the founder and president of Archangel Academy, a coaching and mastermind organization that shares marketing, innovation and revenue-generating strategies with entrepreneurs that aim to give back to the world. By using the concept of “gifting it forward” Giovanni has created a culture of sharing his gifts with people, and for them to “gift it forward” with the aim of becoming the best version of ourselves, and to positively impact those around us every single day. Giovanni believes each and every one of us has the power to change the world, and he helps make this a reality by instilling the same belief in other Gifted Entrepreneurs. To make this dream a reality, Giovanni sets aside half the profits from Archangel to provide micro loans for entrepreneurs around the world.
If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area on April 18th, you won’t want to miss Giovanni speak live at our first ever ManTalks Toronto event, Pursuit of Purpose. For more details, click here.

Age – 39

What do you do? (Work)
I am a talent scout, curator, and connector of superheroes – mission-driven entrepreneurs and leaders that are creating a positive impact for humanity – through my Archangel community and live events.

Why do you do it?
The work I do is the full expression of my gifts completely aligned with my path, my dreams, and my heart. I have the privilege of serving people I love by doing what I love.

How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
It starts with striving to become a better version of myself every day, and positively impacting the people around me every day. I use the phrase ‘gift it forward’ – I try my best to share my gifts with people in my tribe so that they can share their gifts with people in theirs. The impact becomes exponential.

What are 3 defining moments in your life?
1 – March 4, 1994 – The day I hosted my first ever large-scale event and discovered you could make money doing what you love. We had 1000 people attend.  I was 17 at the time.
2 – March 27, 2008 – I call this the darkest day of my life. My marriage had just failed. A few weeks earlier I had a panic attack so extreme I thought I was having a heart attack and had an ambulance rush me to the hospital. A business venture failed because I couldn’t handle the emotional state I was in. I was in complete depression and contemplated suicide. My son (who was 3 at the time) was my angel. I knew I had to fight for him and since then my life has been on an amazing upswing.
3 – February 1, 2015 – It was a few days after my annual Archangel event and I had an experience that I describe as a ‘bliss attack’ – the emotional opposite of a panic attack. It felt as if I was experiencing every positive emotion at the same time coming through me like a bolt of lightning. It was so powerful I had to pull over my car and burst out with tears of joy. I learned that day that our emotions are like tuning forks. When we’re aligned and on the right path, we experience positive emotions. The stronger the emotion, the more aligned. The same occurs with negative emotions

What is your life purpose?
My life’s mission is something I call ’10 billion smiles’ – by the time there are 10 billion people alive at the same time, I want to have positively impacted all of their lives indirectly by up-leveling the people I impact directly through my work, my message, and my tribe.

How did you tap into it?
I focus each day on making it the best day ever – by sharing my gifts with people I love to bring me closer to my dream and bring them closer to theirs.

Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
My Role-Model is a fictional character – Charles Xavier/Professor X from the X-Men. Xavier is the leader of the X-Men team of superheroes. His role is to seek out ‘mutants’ – humans with extraordinary abilities – and show them how to use their powers to serve mankind.
In my world the superheroes are entrepreneurs with big hearts who want to create impact.

Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
I have a highly structure daily ritual – it has been one of the biggest keys to my success and growth. I wake up at 5am and start my day with a 20-minute workout that is a blend of high intensity interval training mixed in with dancing in between sets. Immediately after I set intentions and goals for the day, followed by reading time. I use my friend UJ Ramdas’ 5 Minute Journal and my mornings are based on my friend Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning.

I have another ritual that works wonders for me since ideation and dreaming are 2 of my gifts – I call it ‘shower meditations’. I spend 30 minutes in the shower where I actively download ideas in complete flow. Right after the shower I spend time writing down 8-10 ideas in my journal.
For a more high-level view of my rituals, the ‘structure’ is the same on every week day. Mondays and Saturdays are for planning, clean ups, and prep work.  Tuesdays through Thursdays are revenue generating work and relationship building. I take Friday’s off as ‘my day’ for fun, play, and rest. For the past 8 years, I’ve had a ritual to watch a matinee movie on my own every Friday as my form of escape and to fuel my dreaming. And Sunday’s are adventure days with my son.

When do you know your work/life balance is off?
I think it’s always ‘off’ to some degree. My friend Billy Anderson makes me laugh with this topic because no one ever says they need to add more ‘work’ to be balanced.
I’ve structured my days so that I’m highly productive during work time and have plenty of space for play time, connection, and fun.

Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us. 
Last summer I attended a retreat in Ireland called BraveSoul run by my friend Philip McKernan. I told Philip that my goal for the experience, using an analogy from The Matrix movie, was to take the ‘red pill’ on my life – to see the subconscious programming that’s been invisible to me up to that point.
There was a point during one of our group discussions that the emotions I’ve been holding onto for decades just all released at once and I cried harder than I ever have before in front of the group. It was cathartic and beautiful.

What did you learn from it?
I learned so much from that trip – including how to tap into my intuition, how to be aligned with my heart and my path, and how to remove all the masks I’ve been wearing to be my true self.
I also discovered that being selfless all my life was the most selfish thing I could do.

If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
Happiness, gratitude, confidence, courage, peace, power, serendipity, luck and love are all skills to master and practice every single day. Seek complete alignment in your work and relationships – your intuition and emotions will always guide you.

How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)
The only way to be the best partner is to be your best self and to love yourself first completely. Become your own soulmate. Find someone who is completely aligned with you in terms of path, dreams, values, beliefs, bliss, and growth trajectory – someone who is their own soulmate. Sharing a common future is more important than sharing a common past.

Do you support any Charities or Not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
I’ve supported countless charities in the past, and I’ve been the president of a Rotary Club. My view has changed lately. I believe that mission-driven entrepreneurs are the key to social change. I’m working on creating a fund that provides micro-loans, grants, and angel investment to entrepreneurs looking to change the world so that together we can literally make a dent in the universe.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Either Beautiful Day by U2 or Best Day Of My Life by American Authors

Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
In 3 years I am in the best shape of my life. I am in a blissful relationship with the woman of my dreams. I’ve built an incredible team around me that allows me to spend 100% of my time sharing my gifts with the world.

What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
I want to disrupt the current models of education, business, and philanthropy. I want to help everyone discover alignment in their lives. My dream is to find a way to connect every human on the planet through the common language of love.

What One book would you recommend for any Man?
The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz

If you know a Man that is making a positive impact on the world, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at [email protected]

Man Of The Week – Jeremy Hendon

This week, we have the honour of highlighting Jeremy Hendon, an entrepreneur, coach and speaker. Ironically, Jeremy has found a way to balance doing ‘so much’ and ‘so little’ at the same time! Jeremy has a very intriguing perspective on life and how to live it, one very different from many of the men we have featured in the past. That’s not to say he’s wrong though, Jeremy’s logic does make sense and in fact allows you to notice many of life’s subtle little ‘traps’ we fall into, traps that influence our intentions, thoughts and actions. A man who epitomizes living in the present moment, Jeremy believes purpose is not something we pre-define, but a moment we experience. Read on to uncover more of Jeremy’s fresh take on life.

Age: 37

What do you do? (Work)
I do whatever I feel like, and it seems to work out.
My wife and I are entrepreneurs.  We have brands on Amazon, I recently built a plugin, we have websites that sell our books and courses, I do a little consulting/coaching and speaking, and I’m starting to host events.
But most of my time, I travel a lot, I eat a lot, and I talk to a lot of people.  I do some writing, some speaking, some podcasting, and I play a lot of board games.

Why do you do it?
Most often, because it’s what I think will make me happiest.
In my moments of clarity, I do what I do for no reason at all.

How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
By “doing” as little as possible.
I believe we get caught up in “making a difference” only by viewing the world as imperfect.  This is a trap I’ve fallen into for most of my life – trying to make various differences from environmental reform to political change.
I’ve tried to change the world and to improve myself, but neither is necessary. Change will come and it won’t, and both are fine.
In the words of Ramana Maharshi, “The power that created you has created the world as well. If it can take care of you, it can similarly take care of the world also. If God has created the world it is his business to look after it, not yours.”

What are 3 defining moments in your life?
I honestly don’t know how to answer this question.
If it’s 3 moments that define who I want to be, then those three moments are “now”, “now”, and “now.”  If it’s 3 moments that define my perceived shortcomings, I’d probably choose three instances when I flipped out and yelled at customer service representatives.
I don’t know that any moments actually define my life or even give someone a good idea of what it’s like to be me, which is generally how I interpret the question.

What is your life purpose?
Haha…I don’t know.
I like to think my purpose is to be at peace and to play as much as possible.
But I’m excited to find out what the universe actually has in store for me. I don’t believe it’s possible to know in advance what my “purpose” is. I try to let go as much as I can.

How did you tap into it?
I believe that we create – rather than tap into – meaning and purpose. And so long as I can remain aware that all purpose and meaning is created, I can be at peace with whatever I create.

Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
This changes all the time for me, but one person whom I have admired for a long time is Oprah. She has a lot of compassion and peace in her life for someone so busy and successful.
I have many informal mentors in my life, including some of my friends like Theresa Laurico, Arda Ozdemir, and Philip McKernan.
I also greatly value the contributions of historical figures such as Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha) and Lao Tze.

Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
Habits have become the new currency of dissatisfaction with the present.
Too often in my life (and I see it in many others), I’ve tried to implement habits in order to change something about my life or to “get somewhere.”
So I do have habits, but I don’t think of them as habits at all.  I meditate every day, write most mornings, and even work with some affirmations almost every day (mostly around peace, bliss, and serendipity).  The difference is that I don’t do these things for any reason other than doing them, and I just happen to do them almost every day.

When do you know your work/life balance is off?
I know when I feel like I should do something rather than just doing it. I don’t really have a distinction between work and life, so that’s the metric I use. Procrastination is usually a pretty good sign.

Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
My vulnerability is very dependent on circumstances. It might be vulnerable for me to admit how much money I make when I’m around billionaires but not when I’m around people earning minimum wage.
With that in mind, one thing I’ve felt vulnerable about admitting over the last few months is that I often feel unhappiness and despair. These feelings are something I still view as imperfect about myself, particularly in the company of friends who seem to be very happy with and excited about their lives and their businesses.
Like many vulnerabilities, it might not sound like much, since everybody deals with unhappiness and despair to some degree. But admitting as much to many of my friends has been extremely difficult, uncomfortable, and vulnerable.

What did you learn from it?
To welcome and even embrace those emotions.  (I have not fully learned this lesson…lol).

If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
Be as you are.
Ironically and paradoxically, that might take a lot of work (therapy, personal development, meditation, time, etc.). Or it might take none at all. You are not your thoughts, emotions, or body. You can choose to identify with them or not, but you have no control over them.
Always ask yourself, “Who am I?” and keep asking it, until you realize that there is no “I”.

How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)
The indirect answer is this… when I’m present and clear, I don’t try to be the best husband at all.
I attempt to act intuitively, without trying to please or make my wife happier. I find it both empirically incorrect and also egotistical to think that I could make my wife happy.  My actions might trigger mental or emotional patterns in her (as in anyone else), but her happiness is her own.
The caveat to all of this is that I definitely don’t always act or not act from that intuitive place. Also, you’d have to check with my wife about whether any of this makes me a better husband or not.  ☺

Do you support any Charities or Not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
I really like DonorsChoose.org. I love teaching, I love kids, and I love the platform of being able to choose projects to support.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Let it Go (theme song from Frozen).

Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
In the Present.

What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
An awareness that we don’t need to grow, change, or improve.  That peace and bliss are possible, but only through complete acceptance of ourselves and our world as it is.
But then again, maybe future generations will have technology that makes peace and bliss automatic.

What One book would you recommend for any Man?
Two books I recommend right now…
– The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
– Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

If you know a Man that is making a positive impact on the world, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at [email protected]

Man Of The Week – Elliot Costello

From a very young age Elliot Costello’s life was influenced by his exposure to marginalized people, as his father was a lawyer and baptist, and his mother was heavily involved in not-for-profits. Being around those less fortunate was something of a norm. Seeing the values of his parents in action on a daily basis further cemented Elliot’s belief of community and how vital of a role they play in moving society forward. It seems only natural that Elliot sought volunteer experiences in developing nations while studying for his Bachelors and Masters. In 2008, Elliot and his friends wanted to volunteer in Africa but were asked to cough up over $5000 each to volunteer, which seemed wasteful. Not satisfied with the system in place, Elliot and his friends decided to cut out the intermediary, and thus ‘Y Generation Against Poverty’ (YGAP) was born. Their vision and approach are as simple as they are empowering, a world without poverty and the importance of empowering local people to solve local problems. Their main projects all focus on youth education and today they are active in six countries across Asia, Africa & Australia.
Elliot and YGAP’s most recent campaign, titled ‘Polished Man’, is centred around creating awareness and raise funds for the 1 in 5 children globally who will suffer physical and sexual violence before the age of 18. The campaign stems from Elliot’s visit to a village in Cambodia, where he met a little girl named Thea who was sexually abused. During their meeting, Elliot felt a love and playfulness in Thea’s eyes, little did he know that her tragic yet hopeful story would be the start of a global movement. For more information and to donate, head over to www.polishedman.com
Age: Just turned 31.
What do you do? (Work)
I am the CEO of YGAP; a movement of entrepreneurs that changes lives. We find and enable impact entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most disadvantage communities. We fund our work by running creative fundraising Campaigns and by owning and operating a range of social enterprises.
Why do you do it?
I strong believe we can live in a world without extreme poverty but achieving this requires bold and innovative approaches. Our work is changing the approach of traditional international development by dropping colonial, post WWII, methodologies to instead focus on supporting the local impact entrepreneurs with their ideas to tackle poverty on the frontline.
How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
Predominately work
What are 3 defining moments in your life?
– First trip to India in 2004 with my best friend working and living in some of India’s most challenging areas
– Starting YGAP in 2008 with a group of friends
– Quitting my job in the corporate world in 2013 to go into full-time work with the non-profit I helped start; YGAP.
What is your life purpose?
Support my family and friends on their journey of philanthropy. I believe every single person has the capacity – in some way – to help change the world.
How did you tap into it?
There was no moment or life changing experience, it was just an evolved passion. I was always working on socially motivated causes and soon realised how many people around me were keen to do the same. YGAP has become a vehicle for others to share their skills and passion, motivated by the outcomes we have.
Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
My strongest role model would be William Wilberforce. As a British MP, at the age of just 23 years old, he led the abolition movement to end Britain’s dependence on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
A cup of tea (English Breakfast) after every meal I eat. I can’t live without one!
When do you know your work/life balance is off?
When I hit an absolute wall. I am not too good at picking up the signs that my work/life balance is out of whack; instead I notice when it’s too late. Something I need to change.
Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
Vulnerability is such an important trait to recognise for all men. A YGAP Board Member once said to me: “Elliot, you are super capable, super confident, but you are not prepared to be vulnerable.” This really struck me. Because he is right.
What did you learn from it?
I had to change my leadership approach and style. Given this, I have tried to show my staff and key volunteers that I am not perfect and I am capable of being vulnerable too.
If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
Displaying and expressing vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. I learnt this the hard way.
How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)
Be prepared to have tough conversations about emotions. Women – as partners – are biologically more open to discussions around feelings and emotions. It is important to park the rationale explanation from time to time and connect on an emotional level where you can meet your partner.
Do you support any Charities or Not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
Well, I work full-time for one! Outside of YGAP, I do personally fund a range of not-for-profits; both with my money and with my time (advice and an active Board Member)
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
I asked two female staff members this question. On my behalf they were quick to reply: “Your body is a wonderland” by John Mayer and “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls… I don’t agree, so I will run with “Hakuna Matata” by The Lion King.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
As an organisation, we have set an objective to significantly and measurably impact the lives of one million people by mid-2018. I want to remain the leader who drives this powerful impact.
What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
A simple belief that we all have the capacity to change the world. Be bold, be brave and be vocal in your approach to achieve this.
What One book would you recommend for any Man?
The Reluctant Fundamentalist; it’s brilliant
If you know a Man that is making a positive impact on the world, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at [email protected]


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