Saying it’s a safe space doesn’t make it so

Have you ever heard someone say; ‘It’s a safe space here, so you know’. It’s like saying; ‘You can trust me’ or ‘It will all be ok’. All statements that cannot promise what they offer. Because you don’t know what’s safe, or what builds trust, or whether it will be ok – for the other.

Psychological safety is the belief that we can still speak up with concerns, mistakes and push back, and not suffer as a result. The belief. Being able to control someone else’s beliefs is not easy. Nor something that is your job either. Your job is to create spaces that are respectful and kind. But that doesn’t mean avoidance of issues.

The other piece of the puzzle is looking at your own beliefs right?! To analyse the conversations that others are having with you. To observe your reactions to conflict in a room. To notice how you are feeling when tensions rise. Then to ask yourself;

Is it that I am not safe or could it be that I am uncomfortable?

Hearing things we don’t want to hear isn’t always a safety issue. Being yelled at is.

Observing conflict in a meeting isn’t always a safety issue. When people are verbally abusive it is.

Seeing tension when people disagree with each other isn’t always a safety issue. Shutting someone down for having a different opinion could be.

Saying ‘it’s a safe space’ and then launching into an attack or a retreat is equally unhelpful. And so is expecting people to contribute because you said they should. It’s our role to observe what’s going on in others – and especially ourselves.

If you want to hear more about how to deal with nice cultures, having kickarse catchups, and giving feedback, then check out our 2024 calendar of events here.