How to open the conversation for difficult subjects at work?

Safe Word

Some topics are just too difficult to talk about, or at least to start a conversation. Our boundaries are placed in different locations and sometimes even the most empathetic leaders will have a hard time defining when someone in their team is uncomfortable with a company's new policy or an attitude during a meeting.

The Intimacy chapter in the “Great Wave Playbook” (a publication from The House of Beautiful Business) brings some suggestions about it, among them creating a “safe word”.

Let’s say that your team had defined “pomegranate” as the word to use when something is not quite well (just like the company Zapier did). One of your employees could send it to you during a meeting to indicate that she or he is not ok with the direction or the way things are going, even though they don’t feel confident enough to articulate that in front of everyone.

That opens a way for you to think about and open a communication channel with that person to understand it on a deeper level.

It's not that you don't want to create an open atmosphere, giving everyone (even the introverts) an equal voice. It's just realizing that sometimes we need a safe space to materialize difficult emotions.

So, consider creating a “safe word” for your team's own low-key-safe-self-expression.

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