The space for a conversation can play a large part in the success of that conversation. Find out more below.
What is a Safe Space?
Safe spaces an environment where people feel supported, respected and secure. These spaces are free from judgement, and free from criticism or advice that hasn’t been sought.
These spaces might be a physical place, or a community, a meeting, or even a moment between people who support and respect each other.
These spaces encourage people to express their concerns, their struggles, their successes and their emotions.
What are the Benefits of a Safe Space?
Safe spaces have numerous benefits:
We know that prolonged anxiety or stress can be harmful. In this regard, safe spaces have a biological role, offering respite and relief. They’re an opportunity for our body to cool off from stress, anxiety and defensiveness.
Safe spaces present the opportunity to be vulnerable, without fearing judgement or harm.
Resilience and Self Awareness
The reflection and self-improvement that can be done in a safe space improves your self-awareness and resilience. In turn, this allows us to engage authentically and productively with others, even in difficult situations.
… and for these reasons, safe spaces should really be a key consideration in your self-care.
Spaces That Aren’t Safe
Perhaps its easiest to point to the wrong places first: we’re all familiar with spaces that are heavy with threats, or barriers that prevent people from contributing or sharing.
Some spaces are poor choices for a deep, meaningful exchange of ideas and support. A rushed interaction as paths cross, or an exchange at work in front of untrusted others might be examples.
How do I Create a Safe Space?
There are a few considerations when creating safe spaces where people feel able to share their views, particularly for ideas or emotions that might be sensitive, controversial or deeply personal.
Surrounded by the Right People
The right people are a vital ingredient to a safe space. A safe space needs people that are great listeners, non-judgemental and know when to provide (and withhold) advice.
Free from Unhelpful Distractions
Distractions can be helpful, but there are certain distractions that are rarely helpful. A phone, for example.
Sufficient Time and Energy to Explore
Being bound by time can really impact a conversation. If you’re expecting a complex, nuanced conversation, best to allow enough time or have the flexibility to keep going as long as necessary.
The same applies to energy levels. If there is a chance that energy levels will be low or not enough to get through the conversation, it’s maybe not the best idea to schedule an intense discussion.
If people feel they will be judged or rejected, it’s very difficult to create a safe space.
The absence of judgement of an intention, thought or behaviour sets the foundation for vulnerability and sharing. Non judgement can also be referred to as unconditional acceptance.
Vulnerability is a major part of safe spaces. Mutual sharing brings down walls between people and can create a virtuous cycle of honesty and connection.
Not all issues can be discussed bluntly or directly. Tact is the ability to tell the truth in a way that considers other people’s feelings and reactions. High levels of tact make it easier to give difficult advice and communicate with sensitivity.
Regular catch ups makes it easier to have deeper conversations. These regular catch ups should cover the highs and the lows, and make it normal to talk about anything in between.
It’s much more difficult to force the creation of a safe space in a time of crisis. It’s worth investing in creating safe spaces long before they are needed.