Creating Safe Spaces During the Holidays and Year-round

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The holiday season is in full swing. And while holiday festivities and online ordering are at the top of everyone’s mind, I am thinking about safe spaces.

How can I create safe spaces for my employees, my clients, and my family during this month?

The Oxford dictionary defines safe spaces as “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.”

At work, creating safe spaces is threefold.

  • First and foremost, it’s creating an environment that welcomes people to show up and have different opinions without fear of punishment or termination. Basically, you are sending a message to your team that it is ok to be themselves in this particular safe space — in this workplace.
  • Second, you allow mistakes. Employees become more transparent when they feel like a mistake is a sign of innovation.
  • Third, employees are watching how you (as a manager) are talking about your peers and your boss. When they see you speak well of others — even those you might disagree with — this conveys in concrete ways that your workplace is a safe space.

At home, safe spaces look similar. 

  • At your holiday parties, try to allow people to show up and be themselves … even when that means that they have a different opinion than you.
  • Allow your families to mess up on that gingerbread house, on their baking, or in decorating or hosting. Mistakes are not sins and should not be treated as such.
  • And be careful how you talk about your Aunt Sue. Your kids are watching and listening to you, and they are paying attention to the environment you are creating. Based on your actions, they are making assumptions about the “safety” to be themselves (or make mistakes) in your home. When you speak negatively about other people, your children (or other family members) can internalize that you are not a safe person to whom they can show up and look, or be, different.

With your clients, allow them the space to be different than you. 

  • Allow them to have a different opinion than you. If you find yourself at odds on any particular issue, be curious about their point-of-view and ask questions to clarify rather than vilifying or lecturing them in an attempt to win them over to your way of thinking.
  • Allow your clients to make mistakes without fearing your anger. Help them to see that mistakes happen and that you have a solution that might help.
  • And finally, but certainly of no less importance, be careful how you speak about your current company and your competition. If you speak negatively about others, your clients will presume that you are likely to speak poorly about them as well.

At the end of the day, you can’t fake caring.  And creating safe spaces allows you to care for all the people in your life. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, make a point to let others show up and be themselves this holiday season and year-round. Things don’t need to be perfect. In fact, some of the best things in life are the imperfections, the humanness, in so many of our daily encounters.

So be intentional in caring AND creating safety. It might be the best present you can give this holiday and one that keeps on giving into the New Year!

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