Intentional Peer Support: Space in Relationships

Providing a safe space in the peer relationship is a refreshing approach toward connecting with another person in a manner where the intention is not about what each person can get out of the conversation, but about simply listening and trying to understand each other. Rather than thinking about what you want to say, or trying to read another person’s thoughts, IPS encourages us to think of the relational space between peers as an active, alive space where two people meaningfully listen and respond to each other.

Communicating with intention involves being curious, not making assumptions, and realizing that everyone offers a treasure trove of lessons to be learned. Domineering or invalidating ways of relating include barking orders, giving advice, coddling, placating, minimizing, hoovering, judging, etc. Regardless of how well-intentioned such relational quirks may be, these habits are derived from self-centeredness and are not intentional ways of communicating.


When there is a “disconnect” in the relational space, people often take offense, or make assumptions about what is happening. Imagine you are talking to someone who appears distracted, impatient, and fidgety. You may begin to think:

“Kathy seems bored like she doesn’t want to be here. 
Am I boring her? Have I done something wrong? Is she just being rude?”

The intentional way to respond to a disconnect is to approach the situation from a position of not knowing what is going on with the other person. By stating clearly what you are observing while asking what the other person is experiencing, you can reinforce a safe relational space where both people feel comfortable being open and honest.

Hey Kathy, I’m noticing there is a disconnect in this conversation.
Are you feeling that too? I’m wondering where we can go from here?

Sitting with Discomfort

When communicating with those who do not share similar worldviews, or who are experiencing or talking about something that is uncomfortable, we are often compelled to either fix, fight against, or avoid the situation. IPS emboldens us to resist the fight or flight instinct by learning to sit with the discomfort. Through acceptance, inquiry, and intentional communication, two people can experience an uncomfortable situation without fixing, fighting or fleeing the discomfort. Both people can offer the relational space necessary to get through the experience together and reach a common ground.  

Shery Mead and Beth Filson offer an interesting role play about space in relationships called, “Negotiating Reality”:

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