Safe Space

Hey folks, welcome back to my soap box! Before we go any further, I'd like to do something with y'all - its something I do with anyone I might ever want to get real with. Its a magic spell that - when invoked - transports us straight through the land of small talk into the soul-and-world-transforming land of Real Talk.

I'd like to set up Safe Space.

"What exactly do you mean by Safe Space?!" I hear you cry. Self-explanatory as this tool sounds (to me), the politics and mechanics of the words "Safe Space" mean a wide range of things to a wider range of people. So, since my rules are the ones we will be obeying here on this blog, let me break down my version of what this means for you.

What is Safe Space?

The Safe Space Tool is a set of ground-rules for creating consensual, productive, and drama-free high-stakes conversations. 

Its a way to instantly create (and replicate) a Safe Space for sharing high-stakes information, talking productively about triggering situations, or calling out dysfunctional dynamics in a relationship, dialog, or process.  It is infinitely adaptable. By selecting which sub-principles to emphasize, you can implement the 4 Principles to best support your situation, depending on the level of personal or group risk. Some components may be inappropriate for some settings, and invaluable in others. The more risk involved, the more carefully you want to frame the conversation.

When Should I Use Safe Space?

Anytime there are high-stakes potentially present! Examples include: co-working group meetings; dialog with house-mates, family, or other co-habitators; interpersonal relationship negotiations; dialog involving identities, emotions or triggering situations; and discussions where there is an imbalance of power in the participants.

Personally, I use it everywhere. I have Safe Space set up - to appropriate degrees - with my Clients, my Wife, my friends, my first-dates, my Mother (and whew! did that make our relationship better, lemme tell you!). I make a point to set it up anytime I might potentially get into high-stakes territory with someone - that way, if we go there, we're prepared! Having pre-agreed-upon ground rules for how we talk when shit gets real sets us up for consensual, productive, and drama-free interactions that can go deep easily and safely.

How do I have a Safe Space Conversation?

While you can incorporate these ground-rules into conversation norms in a lot of ways, the following script is a good place to start:

  1. “Hey, this conversation might be kind of intense, so I’d like to use this set of ground-rules while we talk. Can we try that?”
  2. “Shall I tell you about the Principles, or would you like to read them? Do they make sense to you? Is there anything we should add?”
  3. “Let’s invoke these rules from now until we’re done chatting. Ok? Ok!”
  4. “So, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”
  5. “Well, that was [challenging/helpful/etc.] Thank you for the talk, and for setting up these ground-rules with me.”
  6.  “…and, hey, now that we’ve set up these rules, if you ever need to have a high-stakes chat with me, you can just say ‘can we have a Safe Space conversation?’ Then we’ll be on the same page!”

The Principles of Safe Space

These principles are the core of the ground rules - remember that some components of these Principles may be invaluable in some situations, and inappropriate in others. Set it up with your context in mind!

Equalize the Space

  • confidentiality – share experiences & lessons, not gossip and identifying details
  • make space/take space – challenge yourself to step out of your pattern
  • challenge the idea or the practice being voiced, not the person voicing them
  • everyone has equal worth, and all perspectives are equally valid

Check Your Assumptions

  • no judgments or ‘disclaimers/self-judgments’
  • everyone is an individual, not just a representative of a group
  • ‘I Statements’ – own your perspective, don’t project it
  • believe in our common best intentions

The Right to be Human

  • respect each other’s right to be human (to have a bad day, to be triggered, to fail, etc.)
  • honor differences always, center them when appropriate (family of origin, culture, orientation, race, class, gender, ability, etc.)
  • acknowledge emotions appropriately
  • practice giving and receiving forgiveness

Consensual Dialogue

  • active listening – attention focused, appropriate eye contact, check body language, inquire about (and use) preferred pronouns
  • take a risk and speak up, but maintain everyone’s right to pass
  • silence is okay – pauses in the pace of dialogue invite all the voices in the room;
  • 50% rule – each party is responsible for an equal part of the ‘problem’ and the ‘solution’

Lets Set Up Safe Space!

You can simply download the tool and follow the instructions - or, for those of you who are more interactive learners, I've made a video for you to follow along!

Now that we've set up Safe Space, I look forward to many consensual, productive, and drama-free conversations with y'all!


Posted on March 17, 2016 and filed under Sassy's Toolbox.