The Mindfulness Blog

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Psychological Safety

Psychological safety means exactly what it says-- feeling psychologically safe which, in turn, contributes to a sense of well-being. Both personally and professionally.

I first heard the term in the context of a conversation among several HR executives, talking about the challenges of re-entry to the workplace. How one will likely feel, when one leaves his/her office or workstation, and encounters a work peer in the hallway-- masked and socially-distanced. Ditto if one runs into a work peer in the kitchen. And what about if someone shows up, unexpectedly, in the doorway to one's office or workstation?

Psychological safety is a tricky thing-- it's personal to each one of us, and it's a challenge many have not had to deal with in the workplace, before. It's something that each of us should consider, and plan for. It's certainly something that employers are thinking about, but it's also on us.

We may not have much to say about plans made on behalf of an employer, but what about each of us, individually? What can/should we do, to maximize our sense of psychological-- and physical-- safety? Well, psychologically, it will come as no surprise that I recommend mindfulness and meditation, as effective tools. In terms of physical safety, I respect and defer to the advice of public health experts.

I believe that psychological safety begins with an understanding of our personal comfort zone. What is it? And how is it likely to change, in various different situations that we can reasonably expect? A bit of planning in advance can help us respond skillfully, rather than blindly react on impulse-- find that space, between stimulus and response.

And while we're there, maybe sit for a moment with our thoughts and emotions-- become curious about them. Recognize and experience those thoughts and emotions, as they arise in our minds and reside in our bodies,

Maybe we can also recognize that the other person(s) we encounter will be processing their own thoughts and feelings about their encounter with us. That might even be something we (or they) want to share, and talk about.

Mindfulness and meditation inspire-- require-- curiosity, and from that curiosity we can begin to build some degree of empathy. Standing in another person's shoes, and sharing the anxieties that threaten their sense of psychological safety. And in that moment, we can find a shared experience.

That's where psychological safety begins-- in shared experience!


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