We all need room to breathe. Some more so than others. I used to be one of those all-up-in-your-face people. Now, while not perfect, I’m much better at giving people space. In fact, as a life coach, I’m now a professional space-giver.

Giving people space applies to kids and grownups alike.

In ‘Please stop talking! Your kid needs a little peace and quiet‘ I wrote about a no doubt well-intentioned father I once saw in action while visiting the aquarium in Toronto. He was walking around with his toddler in his arms and he (the dad) literally didn’t stop talking for a second.

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The chatter was incessant. “Jacob, look, a fish. Oh, a shark. There’s another one. Look at the stingray. Another shark. Look Jacob, a turtle. A shark. Another stingray. WOW!”

I was saddened at the thought of this little boy not having the space to look and quietly reflect on the magic before him. It’s a thing we’re prone to do as parents. We get all up in their little faces instead of giving them what they — like us — need and deserve: time to process what’s happening in and around them. And the older they get, the more space they need.

How good are you at giving people space?

If you have kids, do you give them room to process what’s running around in their busy young minds, or are you constantly trying to get in there with them, batting at their thoughts like my dog bats at my arm when she wants to be petted?

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What about your partner? Do you love or smother the one you’re with? Let’s face it, it can be really hard not knowing what’s going on in the minds and lives of those we care about.

“Why is he being so quiet? Is he burdened by a worry he hasn’t shared with me, or worse, is he just not that into me anymore? Whether we’re driven by best intentions or insecurity, we need to be mindful of giving people space.

Not sure if you’re loving or smothering someone?

According to a relationship article I read on the eHarmony website (note to husband: I was researching this post, not shopping a younger model), it all boils down to the focus of your attention.

Loving looks like this:

“…they are the object of your attention and you may find yourself doing things simply to make them happy. There is an open, expansive feeling to being in love which can make you feel that anything is possible and as though you would do anything to make this person happy.”

Smothering looks like this:

“…the object of your attention is usually you – your needs, expectations and how you want things to be. The other person is important but only in so much as they should fulfil the role you want them to play.”

I’ve definitely done my fair share of smothering. And you?

I have a good friend. Right now, she needs space.

We used to chat weekly. Now, though, she ever-so-gently skirts around my invitations to chat. It’s hard because I desperately want to know how she’s doing.

Yes, I have the best of intentions, but I’m also very aware of how badly I want to tend to my own need; my need to be in her inner circle. And so, in a conscious effort to love, not smother, I am doing my best to give her the space she needs. She knows I love her. I don’t need to suffocate her to show it.

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Many friendships have turned toxic, many marriages have ended, and many child-parent bonds have been damaged as a result of suffocation. While being able to identify when your behaviour is driven by a self-focused need is important, it’s equally important to recognize that we can smother while loving with even the best of intentions.

So I ask you again, how good are you at giving people space?

Viv for today xo

(Originally published July 2018)

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