Holding space

Holding space can seem a very vague and “woo-woo” term, but it just means being with someone non-judgementally in whatever they are doing, experiencing, or needing.

This requires actively setting aside our own preferences, interests, and opinions in order to create space, a non-judgemental space, for the clients to entertain and engage with one another’s thoughts, preferences, interests, and opinions. It does not mean I don’t matter but rather this isn’t the place for them. It requires that I truly engage the value of autonomy and activate my belief that the many “right” ways to be a human are beautiful, and to recognize the honor and privilege I have to bear witness to them. 

Barriers to holding space:

  • Judgement of what is occurring
  • Preferences about what should be occurring
  • Belief that you are responsible to fix it

Questions to deepen your practice:

  • What barriers do you experience to holding space for consumers? 
  • What do you need to be able to hold space for others?
  • What is the relationship between your interpreting and/or teaching practice and the idea of holding space?

Interpreter Presence

In my coach training, we have been learning about the professional credentialing body of many coaches internationally (International Coaching Federation). We have started in earnest to collect our practice hours and start having individual feedback sessions with our teacher. In a recent session, we were discussing the rubric used to evaluate coaching session recordings by ICF. There are a number of categories, as you might imagine, but I want to talk about “coaching presence,” and the potential applications I see to this concept of presence for interpreters and interpreter educators. 

According to ICF, coaching presence is defined as, “Being fully conscious and creating spontaneous relationships with clients, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” Some of the criteria used to evaluate is: 

Competency 4: Coaching Presence

  1. Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is and the client’s situation.
  2. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s use of language.
  3. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.
  4. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s tone of voice, pace of speech or inflection as appropriate.
  5. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s behaviors.
  6. Coach inquires about or explores how the client perceives his/her world.
  7. Coach is quiet and gives client time to think.

It seems to me a helpful frame that may be missing from interpreting and interpreter education. We do talk about impartiality, and being skilled but not about how we show up to the job and hold space for the communication event for which we were hired. We do not talk about the active work that it is to be present and yet withhold judgement, hold space for whatever needs to happen. It isn’t just a matter of being “neutral” (which we could argue about for eons and its impossiblity), it is about living out, actively, our values of non-interference, autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice (see Beachamp & Childress 2001). 

How we show up in a space need not be happenstance, it actually requires active cognitive and emotional work to be present and make space for the interaction that we are responsible for, to hold space, regardless of our own preferences, opinions, etc. It is tapping in to a belief that its not about what *I* think should happen or needs to happen but rather about what the interlcoturs need to happen.

Developing an interpreter presence mantra, questions to deepen your practice

  • What do you believe about ways of being human? 
  • What do you want to remember about your function as an interpreter in other’s interactions? 
  • What do you want to contribute to the space? Anxiety, calm, openness, etc? 
  • What do you want to characterize your presence as an interpreter in interactions? 

Potential mantras:

  • I am a calm presence.
  • I am open to the communication that occurs here today.
  • I understand people who use sign language and English, and they understand me (modified from a workshop participant recently). 

Coaching Lessons & Growth

What I’m learning from being coached…

I entered this coach training with no experience being coached and exposure to coaching via podcasts, primarily. I have grown and learned so much! One of the best parts of the coach training is that we practice it with one another, thus I get coached in some way, shape or form weekly. It has been lovely and so enriching.


The aim of the practice coaching is to practice particular aspects of the structure, and/or tools that we are learning- but the byproduct is actual coaching on real things.

Win -win.

In my coaching sessions (being coached) we have covered areas of my life like leadership, planning for the future, morning routines, and movement during this “work from home” era.

I would say, as would those who know me well, that I am a naturally reflective person – I analyze things (ad nauseam at times), I look for meaning, I attempt to grow and focus on forward movement. And coaching has been amazing at really getting to the heart of things (not like therapy). The level of clarity I’ve received through the process, and the tangible steps I’ve been able to take are significant give that it is merely a byproduct of the training.

I’ve refocused my leadership to focus on my value that I am not irreplaceable. Meaning I want to equip, empower, and trust that in my absence the work still gets done and done well. Also, that if/when I should exit – colleagues are left better.

I’ve seen the connection between “evening Amanda” and “morning Amanda” by looking at the impact of my nightly routine on my morning routine- these 2 Amandas are still in process of becoming friends and collaborators for my best 😉

I’ve been introduced to a myriad of powerful questions that lead to insights and clarity that can be elusive at times. My current favorite question is,

“What are you pretending not to know?”

Juicy, no!?!

I’ve committed to developing rhythms of movement throughout the day including 1) a morning “commute” – stolen from a colleague in coaching training – this is a walk around my neighborhood for about 10-15 mins to separate my morning routing from the start of my work day and 2) restorative yoga at the close of business – another transition marker between work and home. I’ve just started this 2 days ago, so it hasn’t got much traction – but, I’m excited!

I can only imagine if I were being coached professionally, paying for it, and engaging fully, weekly what could come about. I’m adding this to my tools for thriving – I will be seeking out regular, consistent coaching from one of my coaching-mates or another coach in the very near future.