Safe Doesn’t Mean Easy
I originally posted this article in 2017. Today, more than ever, we need to engage in difficult dialogue in safe ways. So I am revising and reposting my article for today’s challenges.
Is it reasonable to want a safe environment in which to live and work? Of course! Emotional, psychological, and physical safety are necessary if we want people to trust us, give their best and be transparent with us.
Don’t confuse safety with comfort, though. Safety isn’t always easy, especially during conflict.
It’s possible for me to be angry without threatening you.
I can disagree with you without undermining your dignity.
I can ask more of you without undermining your capability.
People can enforce boundaries without compromising safety.
When I disclose my pain you don’t have to take it on.
You can’t export your feelings to me. Neither can I export mine to you.
My feelings and behaviors and values are 100% my responsibility.
Conflict and accountability are hard, and scary, and sometimes painful. When you find yourself in this situation, here are a couple questions to ask yourself:
- Am I unsafe, or am I uncomfortable?
- Is this conflict about me as a person, what I value, or about my behavior? If it’s about behavior, then I am probably safe.
- How do my past experiences with conflict influence how I am interpreting this situation?
- Am I open to understanding another person’s perspective and experience? Am I open to change my behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs? If not, then I probably see every conflict as a threat.
Tips for staying safe during conflict
- Start by being transparent and disclosing your motives.
- Share how you are feeling without blaming anyone.
- Listen curiously to others when they share their perspectives.
- Ask questions to clarify your understanding of another’s experience
- It’s OK to share your beliefs and boundaries, as long as you don’t push them on others or expect them to agree with you.
- Remember that all humans are valuable, capable, and responsible.
Compassionate Accountability is all about engaging in conflict while maintaining safety. It’s not easy. It’s possible. It means un-learning some bad habits. And the results are truly amazing!
Copyright 2017, Next Element Consulting, LLC
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