Day 2: Creating a Safe Space (Part I)

Better Relationships

So you read yesterday’s post and you felt as though you might be up for some work on repairing your relationship(s). There’s just one problem: It’s impossible to talk to (insert name here)! No doubt if you’re at this point, some serious things have taken place. Where do you go from here? How do you even get to a point where you can talk to one another?

relationship building with teens

Prep Work:
You might not like the next thing I’m about to say, but I’m confident this is the only way you can move forward…

WAIVE THE WHITE FLAG! Surrender. Yep, I said it. If you weren’t the guilty party then you can skip to the next step. WAIT!! Before you automatically say in your mind, “Well I know I was right so I’m skipping ahead!” Stop and seriously consider:

  • What happened?
  • What part did I play in the incident? Is there anything I could have communicated differently?
  • Could the incident have been avoided?
  • What am I really trying to communicate?
  • What was the person trying to communicate?

Once you have answered these questions, you might find that your delivery (how you said what you said) may have been harsh even if you genuinely meant for it to come across in a loving, caring manner. If you’re at this point you may be struggling with the thoughts of wanting to apologize, but refusing for fear that the person will think you didn’t mean what you said. This can be resolved with a conversation. The conversation can’t start until one person surrenders and if you’ve made it this far into the post, I’m guessing the party to surrender will have to be you.

Surrendering means coming to a point where you say, “Look I’m not sure what happened, but I’m sorry things happened that way. Can we talk?” OR “I apologize for (insert specific action). I was trying to (insert intention), but it may not have come out that way. I want to work on us, can we talk?” If either of these versionsdon’t feel natural, come up with your own “surrender statement” OR apology in preparation to start the conversation.

This is appropriate for all relationships, but the child version of an apology might look a little different. If you need help with this, feel free to email me and I will see what I can do to help you out! After you have surrendered the ball is in their court, some people may want to talk right away. While others may need more time before they are ready to talk.

The Safe Word:
Disagreements are inevitable in relationships. When meanings and intentions get twisted, we get upset! We jump to conclusions and assume the worse based on our past experiences. How can we make every effort to keep disagreements in the ‘disagreement’ category instead of the ‘argument’ category? Create a safe word.

A safe word is a word you and your spouse/family/friend come up with as a way to prepare each other for a serious, potentially-heated discussion. When either of you hears the safe word, it is a cue for you to mentally prepare yourself to discuss something serious while trying your best not to get upset. It means you need to monitor your responses and be mindful of your tone of voice, your body language and most importantly- your feelings.

Think about a time where you wanted to communicate something serious, but you avoided doing so for fear that the person wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t care or would overreact. No one wants to speak under these conditions. You might be creating these conditions without even realizing it. Only you can take inventory and figure out if your body language,tone of voice, responses and/or feelings are hindering important conversations from taking place.

Prepare yourself:
Whether you are starting the conversation or someone just brought the safe word to you, you have to prepare yourself. Most of the times when we have conversations with people, we are not intending to truly listen. We are “listening” to prepare our defense statement. Our minds are ready with excuses and defenses in an effort to maintain our “blamelessness.” We don’t listen for the need the person is trying to communicate or the hurt feelings that lie behind their statement. We don’t listen to hear what their heart is saying. Our statements come wrapped in layers (which is also a defense mechanism), because we fear being vulnerable with one another. Creating a safe space will eventually help to reduce the layers that we often wrap our statements in, because we will come to realize vulnerability is acceptable. We begin to realize (insert name) accepts me in my vulnerable state and I accept them in their vulnerable state.

Accepting someone in their vulnerable state does not mean agreeing with what they are saying/doing. It means they are allowed the freedom to express it and they will be treated with respect regardless of what they say. When we prepare ourselves and filter our reactions and judgments, we allow the opportunity for more conversations to take place.

This is a lot to remember – especially in the heat of the moment! Take the rest of the day to process this information. Try to figure out practical ways you can keep this in the forefront of your mind when you get upset. Tomorrow I will finish giving you the steps to creating a safe space!

Tomorrow’s Post: Creating A Safe Space (Part II)

From The Heart Counseling giveaway