On Holding Space

What not to say to someone suffering- be it from burnout, grief, illness, tragedy…
“I couldn’t do what you do.”
“I couldn’t live with that pain.”
“I couldn’t handle that schedule.”
“ I couldn’t do that.”
To keep it simple- do not start any sentence with “I couldn’t” in response to hearing another person’s story of struggle or suffering.
I personally started responding to “I couldn’t” comments after seeing me give an insulin injection, with “ staying alive is a strong motivator to switch from couldn’t to can.”
When someone tells you their story – don’t make it about YOUR ability to handle THEIR adversity.
So often “I couldn’t” statements are said with good intentions. Out of a desire to make the other person feel like you see the gravity of their situation and are humbling yourself by saying that you couldn’t do what they are doing.
But that’s not helpful.
Instead, get curious.
Discover what traits the other person is displaying that you are in awe of.
Is it their dedication to purpose, connection to values, vulnerability, courage, insightfulness…
Call out what it is that you see that inspires you.
AND pair it with validation of the difficulty of their struggle. Make it match of course your relationship with the person.
“I admire your dedication to your patients and see how it has become so hard to continue showing them the compassion you want while balancing the workload.”
“I so appreciate your vulnerability and courage throughout this time and can imagine that staying composed while grieving must be nearly impossible.”
We lose connection to who we were before tragedy hit, burnout overwhelmed us and life started to feel like a never ending dumpster fire. We forget what it feels like to look in the mirror and see who we are, not just what we feel.
When we tell someone what we see in them that we admire, we aren’t trying to make things better, or fix things. Instead we are giving them a chance to see in themselves something that often gets lost in suffering.
When someone shares their story- listen with curiosity, connection and compassion.

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About Becky

Becky Schmooke (pronounced “Smoke”) is a Mindful Leadership Consultant and Speaker, focused on providing action based mindfulness and leadership training to organizations and businesses who are ready to do things differently.

Becky’s Mindful Kitchen, is located outside of Iowa City, and provides truly unique team building and leadership retreats,  strategic planning workshops, private parties and classes and weekly summer camps for kids. The commercial teaching kitchen, treehouse, archery range, bush craft skills, first aid training, wood fired pizza oven, chickens, baby goats and timber adventure playground provides endless opportunities for hands on activities.


As a mom to three girls, 60 chickens, 4 goats, 2 dogs and a fire fighter’s wife- life is never boring and provides Becky with endless stories which she uses to illustrate her approach to mindfulness in daily posts on social media.  

In all that she does, Becky has one goal, to build confidence in others to take action to live their best life, not just pass time.  

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