Creating Safety for Yourself

4 minute read

It’s common to hear someone say “I didn’t feel safe to say that”.  Many people find themselves in spots where they want to say or do something, and they don’t feel like someone else has “made it safe” to do so.

Let’s flip that on its head.  

Instead of waiting for others to create safety, remember that you are the first person who can create safety for you.  You can create safety for yourself to speak up, regardless of what others are showing.  This is possible because you are the only person who truly knows your intent.  

Where people get hung up in creating safety for themselves is in telling themselves something like this…”I know what I mean, but they don’t…I just don’t want to be misunderstood or taken out of context”.  This is totally normal and happens a lot.

If you stop here and don’t go further, there are a lot of costs: 
You’re not saying what you really know about the situation
You feel trapped and frustrated because you could be doing more
You may decide to check out and just abandon this project, job, or relationship

It can be different, and it just takes some practice and focus to get there.

Below are the three main steps to take to start creating more safety for yourself to show up fully.  We’ve included example language that supports a notional situation, where you want to provide specific input about a particular project, even though you’re not “in charge”. 

STEP 1:  Recognize what you don’t want.  Your internal voice may say “I don’t want them to think I’m wanting to push this in a specific direction, or take control.”

STEP 2:  Use that as a starting point for what you DO want, for you and for others.  Knowing what you don’t want is good, and most people stop there.  Dig into what you ARE wanting to create, using what you don’t want as an initial reference.  In this case that could sound like, “I want to share recent experiences I had with very similar work so this team can move faster and with less challenges.”

STEP 3:  Create safety for yourself by letting others know what you are wanting to do, and maybe even what you don’t want to do.  In the example you could say to the group, “this is a lot like a complicated project I just finished where I had some real difficulties.  I’d like to share those so this team can avoid those delays, without it seeming like I’m pushing in a specific direction.  I’ll take a minute to share some highlights on what I learned.”

The part that is often the hardest in this is step 2 and 3.  Putting really clear language around what you want in a situation is hard since most people rarely do this.  We all live in our own head and things are “just obvious” to us, even if we’re not spelling them out specifically.  

When you’re not clear with yourself, you can’t be clear with others. 

Putting specific language around your goal so it’s clear enough to share with others is the hardest part.  As you do that, be sure to identify what you want for them.  In the example above, you’re wanting them to have an easier time and get the project done faster.  That isn’t about you, it’s about their experience being smoother and faster.  

This is a skill like any other, and will take time and effort to grow.  Start this in email exchanges where you have more time to thoughtfully craft your response.  As you get more comfortable, start to incorporate this into discussions using the three steps above.  

When you’re ready for something better, we got your back. Just give a holler.

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Wingspan partners with leaders around the world to strengthen their behavioral performance and communication. Our approach centers on creating more intentional outcomes by developing healthy behavior systems, more productive interactions, and more meaningful relationships.