The spaces in between….

IMG_0733.PNGIn my twenties I went to study Art A level, something which had been a passion of mine as long as I could hold a pencil in my hand. The art teacher was fabulous at giving great feedback. In my introduction to him, he critiqued a piece of my work, which on reflection, was not that good, but it inspired me to want to learn more. That was a man with a gift for helping people to learn!

The other day something sprung to mind that I had not thought about in years. One day when advising me how to draw still life, he told me to look at the spaces in between and to try to draw these rather than each separate bottle in the collection that I was studying. When I had drawn them, they seemed disconnected and not quite life like. When I started to draw the spaces in between, something magical seemed to happen and the random collection of objects in front of me somehow were transposed onto the paper, with less effort. It worked also when drawing a bowl of fruit and it was something that helped greatly in developing my drawing skills.

So why am I thinking about this now? Space and time are something we all seem to be short of and I was reflecting with a colleague of mine, Karen Foundling about facilitation skills. She is really good at giving people the space and time to get to where they want to be, using questioning skills, silence and deep listening. She has a natural humility which prevents her from assuming she knows the best solution for any group of people, but she has a great trust in their own ability to find their own solutions. These are some of the things I have observed:

  • She provides a safe space for people to open up
  • She holds that space and allows people to express their opinions
  • She listens deeply, reflecting back what they have said and deepening her own understanding of what is going on (and sometimes what is not going on)
  • Through listening, the great questions seem to arise that challenge them but also draw them nearer to their solution
  • She notices what is not said and if there are any barriers to them finding their solution
  • She affirms things she notices they have done well
  • Most of all, she holds their space and without rushing, gives them the time to figure out what they need to and sometimes who they are

In reflecting on this it has made convicted me of a need to allow people to not only have their space to discover who and where they are, but also to be aware of the spaces between themselves and others. To gently explore first where they are, but then to observe what is between them and the people they work with. A strong sense of identity is one thing, and is important, but so are the relationships between you and others. It is what forms the very fabric, or culture within.

So my questions for you will be……how do you provide time and space for people in your organisation to reflect on the space they have between themselves and others, in order that those spaces become well-defined? In becoming well-defined, do those spaces become part of the very fabric of the culture that allows growth and acceptance? Would love to know what you  think…..


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