As a coach, I am trained in how to make other people feel safe and comfortable to share openly with me. I cannot help them achieve their goals if they don’t feel safe enough with me to tell me their innermost desires. I cannot help someone break through the mindsets holding them back if they don’t feel comfortable truly telling me what’s on their mind.
However, for most of us, we are interacting with people daily who do not make us feel safe. By safe, I mean comfortable enough to let all of our guards down.
Today, let’s chat about two ways we can make others around us feel more comfortable. The better we are at creating safe spaces for others, the deeper relationships we can develop with one another.
1. Replace Judgement with Curiosity
If before entering the conversation you already believe firmly in a proper outcome to a situation (the choice they should make, what they should believe, how they should respond, etc) you have already placed the barrier.
This will require you to do the inner work of arriving at a place where not everyone needs to make the same decisions as you, or respond to situations the way you would respond. We only judge others for what we judge ourselves for. Therefore, if you have not done the work to release your inner critic against yourself, you will be limited in your capacity to hold back your judgement toward others. Even if you don’t outright criticize them, your body language, your eyes, your tone will say it all.
Focus on developing an insatiable curiosity. Instead of approaching a conversation with trying to influence someone else’s actions or thinking, focus on what you can learn from them. Learn how to ask questions that open up doors and windows to how they arrived at that moment, behavior, or perspective.
2. Listen to Understand
Most people approach conversations by “listening to respond.” The whole time the person is speaking, they are spinning their wheels thinking about what they will say or ask next, instead of being able to fully hear the other person.
A seek to understand mindset approaches a conversation without an agenda. In alignment with curiosity, listening to understand allows us to ask better questions, truly hear what someone is saying, and catch what they are inferring between the lines.
Oftentimes in these conversations, I will respond with “If I am hearing you correctly, you think that X, Y then Z.” I cannot tell you how many times the other person will say “not really” and clarify their statements for me. Despite the fact that I was listening, the message they meant to portray and the one I interpreted were not the same. Repeating back what I heard allows me to truly understand the other person because I am less likely to walk away with a misunderstanding or casting attention on the wrong point. So often, the layer where they get to the heart of their message comes in the clarifications.
Brené Brown, author and research professor of social work at the University of Houston, said it best: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
May we all be intentional at making those around us feel safe enough to be their most authentic selves.
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