Can You Create a Safe Space?

Have you heard a leader, coach, facilitator or DEI expert talk about creating a safe space?  Miriam Webster defines a safe space as “a place … intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.”  Some people are questioning whether that is truly possible.

An Unrealistic Promise

In The Persuaders, Anand Giridharadas quotes activist Loretta Ross:  “We told people… that we could create safe spaces, when in fact all we can do is create spaces to be brave together. To call people into a brave space was to summon everyone to try something together. To promise people a safe space was to make everyone a promise about everyone else. And that’s impossible to keep.”

Brené Brown explored this issue on a recent podcast in the context of facilitating the Dare to Lead™ work in organizations.  She points out that no one knows all the organization’s history or who has silent power over the people in the room, and no one has control over what happens after the session.

How to Create a Brave Space

Whatever your role, how might you invite people into a space where each individual can choose to be brave in discussing challenging issues like diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging?  By asking these questions of each individual first and then exploring them as a group over multiple conversations, ideally with the help of a trained facilitator:

  • What will a successful group conversation look like?
  • What do you need to show up and dig in?
  • What might get in the way of you doing that?
  • What does support look like?

In honor of Martin Luther King, I hope you will take action where it’s needed.