by Michael McGinnis
There are two kinds of space. One is the regular kind that all matter occupies, which is physical space. The other is 'psychic space'. This is the room that we give each other to act, think and feel freely, without interference. When we give other people the freedom to think for themselves, this is 'making space'.
When someone gets into your psychic space, even with good intentions, it is still trespass on personal privacy. I taught in Ghana at a rural school and lived in a duplex, where the other side was occupied by a lady teacher also from Canada. Women, God bless them, have a tendency to be 'motherly' and my neighbour mostly kept those tendencies under control.
One day, however, another teacher was due to visit our school and had to stay overnight. Since I lived by myself in a two bedroom house, I was the obvious person he could stay with. My neighbour came over to put some of her spare blankets on my spare bed, and then decided that my place wasn't clean enough for a guest! Heavens, I had some dirty dishes in the sink, and the floor hadn't been swept today, and I had cockroaches! Well, actually everyone had cockroaches. So my neighbour got a friend to help her prepare my house for this guest. He never arrived (maybe he heard rumours of my housekeeping). Of course, it was my own fault for letting her do as she wished. I could have said no.
That second bedroom also got me in trouble on another occasion. As a teacher at this school in Ghana I was replacing a Canadian man who had married one of his students, to the general approval of local people. Standards differ from place to place. Shortly after arriving at the school I noticed a twenty year old student with appreciation. I thought to myself that she had a very nice figure. I wasn't giving her the space which I believe a teacher should give a student. The very next second she walked over to me and asked to move into my second bedroom. For purposes of studying she said. My face went through several shades of red before it found one it liked, and I said, no, the room wasn't available.
When we do not tell other people how to think or what to do, we are actually giving ourselves the same freedom from other people telling us what to do. You can get a lot of mileage out of the idea of making space. For instance, judging other people with whom one does not have a connection of responsibility is a violation of their space. Negative gossip is the obvious example.
Making space for other people lets them make space for you. Rather than be trapped by a vicious circle of negative energy back and forth between people, it also allows your thoughts to go in new, more positive, and happier directions.