3 steps from hostility to empathy
How to create safe spaces for empathetic conversations
Empathy is one of the best tools we can use when we’re in a hostile conversation. In these often emotionally charged scenarios, creating a ‘safe space’ is the first step towards engaging with empathy.
I define a safe space as a mental, emotional, and, if necessary, physical environment where perspectives can be shared freely without judgment or harassment.
Here are some helpful steps for creating this kind of safe space.
- Recognize the conflict. It’s easy to get sucked into an argument before we’re even aware of what’s happening. I find it helpful to note what triggers me to react defensively or aggressively and use those ‘triggers’ as warning signs for potential conflict.
- Reframe for connection. Take a moment to focus the conversation on connecting with the other person — not changing them, proving your point, or explaining why they’re wrong.
- Respond with curiosity. Ask generous, open-ended questions to better understand their perspective (even if you think you already know it).
A safe space not only helps us to better empathize, it also empowers others to engage with honesty and vulnerability.