Being There for Someone - A Short But Powerful Guide

Jordan Brown

People spend a lifetime learning to be there for someone else.

But you don't have that kind of time.

Let's focus on the essentials, and let's focus on them now.

Being There for Someone

"Being there for someone." What does that MEAN?

It seems elusive, like a bat flitting away in the night.

But it doesn't need to be that way. There are core principles. Let's go over them now.

Strategy 1 - The 90% Rule

One of the best rules I've ever learned is the 90% rule. A manager told me about it in my first mental health job. He told me to listen 90% of the time and talk 10% of the time. That simple flip of the switch improved my relationships with the youth and families I was working with tenfold.

Why?

Because it opened up the space. It gave them time and permission to think for themselves and decide what they wanted to say. With this newfound permission, these middle-school youth realized they had a voice. So used to being talked over by teachers and parents, these youth found that they had much to say, and they started to trust that I was someone who could listen while they said it.

Strategy 2 - Holding Space

This one goes right along with the 90% Rule. It's so common in this fast-paced, action-oriented world to think you need to be doing and saying something all of the time. You don't. You can simply hold space.

What do I mean by that? I mean you can just sit there. You can be a trustworthy person who sits. And while you may initially feel like you're not doing very much for the other person, you're doing a lot.

Here's a question to consider: When something horrible happens, what do you want most?

Do you want someone to come up to you and start giving you advice? Or do you want someone who will just sit there with you? You probably want the latter. Holding space means being present in the moment with another person, whatever that looks like. And often, if we're being honest, it looks like two people sharing the same space and allowing whatever comes next to emerge naturally.

Here's a video that illustrates what I'm talking about. Don't be fooled by the video title. At it's core, it's about holding space.


You can be there for someone else. You have it within you.

The natural, modern reaction is to do, do, do.

To truly be there for someone, though, the answer is not always more action.

In fact, that's rarely the answer at all.