Psychological Safety v. Psychological Bravery

I am finding myself in many different environments, with many different personality types of people and thought I would share my list of seven characteristics I find make a psychological safe space.

  1. Thought sharing. The ability to speak your mind real time. To process out loud with others (a necessary function for extraverts) without concern about what the other party will say or do.
  2. No judgement zone. The removal of fear that what you say or the choices you make will be met with ridicule based on someone else’s values.
  3. Positivity. An outlook on life that there is more good in this world than bad, and an belief that people are coming into conversations with positive intention to support others.
  4. Predictability. You can rest comfortably knowing that people show up consistently and you won’t meet Jekyll or Hyde depending on the weather pattern.
  5. Gratitude. An overall appreciation for what is right in the world. For how lovely coffee tastes, how beautiful roses smell, how bright and warm the sun is.
  6. Silence. The ability to sit in silence and not have to engage in dialogue.
  7. Self-Reflection. The recognition that people are putting energy into their own personal development and identifying the part they play in communication and relationships.

What else would you add that makes it feel like a safe space for you? What do you value?

As I have shared a few times before, I struggle with anxiety and spend a lot of time in my head (one of the many reasons I love writing this blog). I try to be aware of when ‘psychological bravery’ is needed on my part. Not all environments are psychologically safe. So what do you do when you are expected to speak up but the environment isn’t ripe for it? You get brave! You weigh the importance, you weigh your values, you decide what you need. And sometimes that means taking a risk. Psychological bravery is about having confidence, having the psychological safe environment within yourself to be able to find your voice and take the leap regardless of how it is met. Being psychologically brave in an unsafe environment is scary, especially when you feel you have something to lose, like a job, a relationship, a status. Mostly the need to speak up is the disconnect between what you value internally vs. externally which gives you the confidence to be psychologically brave and engage.

I am more of flight than fight kinda person, which makes knowing when to find my brave shoes (or flip flops this summer) extra challenging. I usually tell myself it is easier not to engage as I usually don’t see the point. But is that the healthiest, maybe not… Does it help the future environment, maybe not. This is why therapists and coaches get paid… to help cultivate an environment methodically, instead of a rip the Band-Aid approach. I ask my clients what is the smallest thing you can do that will have the biggest impact (a very common coaching question). So what is the smallest you can do to find your psychological bravery when your values are telling you it is needed?

“The greatest measure of self awareness is when another persons behaviors do not impact your inner peace.” ~Unknown

Published by rachaelsarahgass

Working mom, wife, friend, sister, organizational psychologist, learner, coach. Kindness Counts. People First. Integrity Always.

One thought on “Psychological Safety v. Psychological Bravery

  1. Your post made me think of a topic that I often revisit — and it’s somewhat tangentially related — Does innovation/creativity come more from necessity or safety? (And, no, these aren’t diametric opposites necessarily.) I often think of this in terms of countries and cultures, e.g. Sweden versus the United States. This question leads me to another related thought — Why is there such a blind ambition towards innovation in nearly any form? Innovation has also resulted in climate change, in addition to drone delivery of cat litter. Enough with the social criticism.

    On a more individual level and bringing it back to your original focus, there is a personal value in exercising the bravery to speak up. Two things that help me to find that bravery, lowering my barriers to entry: (1) Similiar to taking photos; you have to take many before getting it right, and (2) that nothing is inherently original; there is considerable value in speaking up to propagate another’s idea. On top of that, it helps to identify “your take”. What do you focus on when you listen? Do you find weaknesses, seek clarifications, find connections between different ideas, take the audience’s pulse, move into operationalizing, etc.? That can be your more confident entry point.


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