Updated: Aug 13, 2021
*Prefer audio/visual? Check out FB Live where I share about the blog + offer a very simple somatic practice to support the feeling of taking space for yourself
A few years back I was texting with a friend when she sent me back handed & passive aggressive comment. It took me by surprise & felt like a kick in the gut… but at first I didn’t really compute the situation. Instead I began to spin out…
What did I do?
How can I fix this?
What’s she thinking? Feeling?
Maybe she just needs space, I should give her space.
I don't think she likes me.
I quickly reached out to her superseding my discomfort with an urgency to ‘fix’ it. I found myself strategizing as I texted ~ trying to create the perfect message that didn’t sound needy, definitely didn’t show I was upset, & would somehow curate a connective & heartfelt interaction.
Then I stopped myself… Wait a second... what am I doing?
My entire focus had been on her, how she felt, what she needed, so much so that I bypassed my own feelings completely.
It was in that moment that I realized I needed space.
Space from trying to fix it.
Space from feeling responsible for all of it.
Space to actually figure out how I felt & what I needed for myself.
Space to intentionally discover my next move.
At the time taking step back & reconnecting to myself was revolutionary. It took me out of the external focus of my friend & placed me back into my own centre. Here, I could experience my sadness at the comment, acknowledge my fears & attachment around the relationship, & ultimately come to a place where I felt settled.
Understanding Our Urgency to Fix Situations & Please Others
As kids (& even infants) our ability to adapt to our environment is necessary for survival. We are wired for safety.
Throughout our childhood (especially if it's a volatile environment) we might learn explicitly or implicitly to ‘ensure everyone is okay’ (even at our own expense) & that we should never ‘rock the boat.’ This hyper-vigilant adaptation protects us from punishment, rejection, & ensures our membership to the family or tribe.
As adults, many of us come to find the dominance of this adaptation problematic. Perhaps you take on too much responsibility, say yes when you want to say no, or suffer from a seemingly illogical fear of not being liked, being disagreed with, or having someone pull away. Anxiety, perfectionism, & worry can be indicators that we are trying to ‘fix’ a situation in order to meet that very instinctual need to be a part of the tribe. From this perspective standing out, rocking the boat, or even acknowledging & asking for the space we need can feel threatening.
The good news is that with care & practice this pattern begins to shift. When we learn to slow down, ask for, & take the space we need we carve a new pattern ~ one that demonstrates self value & respect. By sharing this need with respect & care it can also serve to build intimacy & trust in our relationships.
20 Phrases to Help You Ask For &/or Take the Space You Need.
If you’re like me in that introductory story taking space for yourself may be a revolution! With something so new it can be hard to find the language to accurately convey this need.
So... to make it a little easier for you I've written 20 phrases below that you can use & adapt to help you communicate your need for space. These phrases pertain mostly to closer relationships & regular social interactions.
Taking Space During a Tense Discussion.
Here are some 'go to' phrases to use when you are in a tense discussion & find that you are overwhelmed or over-emotional.
I want to be present & I’m feeling overwhelmed. Can we take a break & come back to this when I (or we) feel a little calmer?
This is a lot for me to take in & I want to give it some time to settle. Can we discuss this ________ (in a couple days, tomorrow, later, after my vacation).
I’m having a really strong physical response to what you said right now & I need a moment to process.
It feels like there's a lot here to unpack & I want to do that with you. Do you mind if we just take a little break so I can be there with you more fully?
I need to step out of this for a minute.
Taking Space in Your Regular Space Life
Sometimes you may find there is a genuine desire to be alone or take more time to yourself. Instead of feeling guilty about taking space try these phrases to appreciate & communicate to those relationships that support you.
I know I've been spending a lot of time by myself lately & I just want to say how much I appreciate you giving me space. I've really needed it & it's meant a lot to know that it's okay for me to do that.
Thank you for being so cool with me not wanting to _________. I really appreciate that I can be honest with you.
It's meant so much to know that there's room for me to care for myself in this relationship, thank you.
I just wanted to let you know that I'm needing a little more space & time to myself these days. Please know it has nothing to with you. I value you, appreciate your understanding, & simply wanted to let you know where I'm at.
When You're Invited Out But Want to Stay In
Thank you for inviting me out. Can we take a rain check & plan something for _________ (Next Tuesday, after my exams, etc)
That sounds like fun but I'm needing some down time. I'd love to plan a ______ (lunch, coffee, chat) or something next week, would that work?
I appreciate the invite. I'm not really into _________ (i.e. going to the bar, that band, shopping) these days. I hope you guys have a good time!
I'd love to do that another time. I've been busy at work lately & need to get some rest tonight.
When You Need Some Time To Consider.
This sounds interesting. Do you mind if I get back to you ________ (tomorrow, next week, Tuesday, etc)
Thank you for your __________ (message, email, words, thoughts) . I'll be in touch after I've had some time to process.
(After taking some time before responding) Thank you for your patience, I wanted to take some time to really consider what you said.
That's a lot to take in. I'll get back to you tomorrow with my answer.
When You Need to Excuse Yourself (i.e. someone who chats your ear off at a party, or someone hitting on you)
Can I pause you there? It was nice to talk to you but I actually need to go ____________
Please excuse me I need to return to __________
I hate to cut you off there but I need to __________
Ultimately when we begin ask for & take the space we need we become better listeners to ourselves & others. This time allows us to process information, find clarity, & helps to prevent those small resentments or frustrations fofromrm festering. From space we gain insight & intentionality. This is turn actually allows us to engage more fully with each other.
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is an international teacher, coach, & musician who focuses on helping individuals connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
1:1 coaching is the fastest way to overcome your blindspots & find deep & more impactful expression. Book a FREE consult to see how In Resonance Coaching can support your full expression today!.