Spaces and Spacemaking

This post leads on from the beginning I made with my post On Relationships…

Space is an abstract concept, but I find it is an important and useful one when considering how I negotiate the universe of my relationships. (All space metaphors, all the time, except when the metaphors are about buckets…) I thought I’d start by creating an understanding of what I mean by space, and then I can talk about spacemaking and how it’s relevant as a relationship skill.

Space…

Space is a many faceted thing. We use it in a variety of contexts. Personal space, for ourselves, for others, as an example. It’s a tangible thing that we recognise as the distance between one thing and another thing. It’s also a sense of energy and comfort – not standing on top of someone. Your home is a space, your bedroom, your computer, this blog… anything that you can draw a boundary like a bubble around, is a space.

Spaces can be used to communicate respect, care or comfort. Space can also be used to protect yourself and as a retreat. Space can be used for confrontation, for challenging, for competition and argument. Anything you can draw a boundary around it and designate it as ‘this place/time where I/we do/say/feel xyz’.

Relationships are spaces… 

Relationships are spaces and just as we put energy and effort into building and maintaining relationships, part of that goes toward spacemaking. We don’t think of it separately, usually. But I find that as a specific concept and strategy that it is something I continually refer to. Making space for, making space away from, making space where, which is to say: spacemaking.

Spacemaking…

If you’re engaging in spacemaking, you’re consciously and intentionally creating a space for something to happen, or to prevent something happening. Generally I find that a positive directive is more useful – creating a space that invites what you’re seeking rather than shutting out what you’re avoiding. Even though you can go about it both ways, consider that you’re putting conscious effort into this and that you may find that it makes more sense to add good things to your life and experiences instead of focusing on the negative.

More practically…

Think about when you host a party or a dinner or even just a meeting. Anything doesn’t matter what it is. Think about how you setup the location. Think about what planning you do beforehand. Think about how you make sure that the space is conducive to the aim of the event. As an example, for a party you might make sure there are tasty snacks and plastic cups. What you’re doing when you do these things is spacemaking. You’re consciously creating space with an intention that it will contribute to the purpose for an event.

The same principle works for relationships.

Generally speaking, you may wonder what the purpose for relationships would be such that this strategy would work. The purpose for a relationship is to relate, though the shape of relationships varies from person to person and style to style. A friendship I have with someone is different to your friendship with someone. The way I have a romantic relationship is also different to you, we have different parental relationships. You get the idea.

Spacemaking as relating… 

Thinking about that purpose: to relate gives you the chance to appreciate the shape of the relationships in your life. This is useful as background knowledge for all relationship skills – and I should probably talk about it specifically at some stage. But it is useful for spacemaking because it has you think about how you relate and to relate is also to create space.

If you’re hosting a party, you’re creating a space where people feel comfortable to step into it, have a good time and socialise together.

If you’re building a relationship, you’re creating a space where you can connect with the other person, a space where there is communication and honesty, an openness, respect and listening. It’s a subtle communication that happens as a function of tiny bits of all styles of communication. You contribute to spacemaking where someone feels comfortable, happy, safe and appreciated using your body language, using your speech and your mannerisms. It all counts and contributes.

This is a good time to mention that genuineness is critical for spacemaking. You can’t say ‘the right words’ and have it work without it being in alignment with the rest of your body language and non verbal communication cues.

Spacemaking in relationships is a function of a genuine desire to engage, to relate and to build something.

Spacemaking is a multiplicity… 

You can use spacemaking in a multiplicity of ways in a relationship, there’s the space of the overall relationship. But, if there’s an issue that needs addressing, you can also make space where that can be worked through gently, with respect and care. Any kind of space you take a conscious approach to engaging with, is spacemaking. There’s no one right way to do it, but being conscious is the beginning. So, as a start… just notice the space around the things in your life and where you can recognise specific spaces both tangible and intangible. Then think about how you want to facilitate and nurture them. Try things. Refine them.

Spacemaking isn’t an exact recipe, it’s a strategy that draws on things we do naturally but makes them a conscious consideration where we actively engage with making space that works for us and for others a priority.

An example in employing spacemaking…

I thought an example would be useful to see in some small way what I’ve been talking about in action. I have a wonderful friend Flyingblogspot, we are close and beloved to one another but also very different people, with very different needs. We use spacemaking consciously and openly with eachother and it means that we both get what we need and get to feel amazing about that. One of the ways in which I create space for her, is through invitations to spend time and spacemaking around that. We love spending time and catching up, we’re both busy and sometimes quite stressed. As an extrovert I tend to seek out pockets of company to alleviate this and recharge, and as an introvert she finds she needs lots of alone recharge time.

I’ve created space around invitations to catch up, because sometimes invitations can feel loaded, you can want to say yes to things where it’s more out of a sense of obligation than genuine desire. It can be stressful and unpleasant. At the same time, inclusiveness is lovely and being invited it part of that. The space I’ve created for Flyingblogspot is basically my unequivocal reassurance that she could refuse one invitation, every other invitation, every invitation for six months and I wouldn’t take it to mean anything else except that she wasn’t available for the occasion of that invitation. I would not make assumptions that it was something about our friendship or that she didn’t care, didn’t want to spend time. Her trusting in this promise I’ve made is part of the spacemaking.

The result is I can make invitations whenever it occurs to me to do so, and she feels safe to say yes when she’s up for things and to decline when she’s not, she doesn’t ever need to worry that I am quietly resentful or upset because she’s declined one/three/ten invitations over a period of time. It clears out dross that can create misunderstanding and instead we just get to enjoy the relationship together.

Talk to me about spacemaking… 

I’d love to hear how the rest of you consider the idea of spacemaking. How do you do it? What do you think is important in employing it as a strategy? I can only speak to my experiences and how I create space, so I’m interested in what the rest of you have to contribute here too.

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