“Ask A Trainer” is our monthly email dedicated to answering questions about Safe Conversations, written by an SC Senior Trainer.

QUESTION: How do I practice Safe Conversations with someone who doesn’t know it?

For those of you with kids in your life – or who has ever been a kid – you know what it’s like trying to get children to eat anything healthy if they don’t like it (or think they don’t like it!) You hide the offending healthy morsels in some less healthy, but more tasty offering, confident they’ll get some good out of it even if they don’t fully appreciate it at the time.  

It’s kind of the same deal as an adult when you want to share what you’ve learned about a new way of being in the world; for instance, you learn to use Safe Conversations to reach people at a level of connection you’ve never experienced before.  YOU have been trained; YOU have had the amazing experience of feeling heard, validated, and affirmed; YOU have seen what a transforming, simple, powerful difference it can make in your life.  

But what now?  How do you now use this wonderful gift with the people in your life who don’t know it, haven’t experienced it, haven’t been trained, and may not even realize there IS a better way to communicate than the way most of us do it every day? 

Easy – you sneak the veggies in with the mac and cheese! 

One of the most frequently asked questions we get as Senior Trainers at Safe Conversations is usually some variation on this: “I LOVE this stuff! It feels so good to be heard, and I feel such a connection to the person I was working with!  How do I do this with someone who hasn’t been to this workshop?” 

It’s a question we love to hear because we know that person is going to share the benefits of Safe Conversations with people they care about, and we are happy to give them all the best advice we can offer. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you whip up that tasty batch of mac and cheese:

Listening Is Always The Key
Nearly all of us think we are great communicators!  We’ve been taught that talking is how we get things done, make people understand us, get our needs met, set our boundaries, let others know we aren’t happy…are you seeing a pattern here?  It’s all about ME.  Talking is how I tell YOU all about ME.  

Listening, that amazing skill you learned at your workshop, is how we learn about OTHERS. Letting go of the idea that you are going to get anyone to do anything is the first step.  Instead, commit to simply being a better listener yourself.  Listen, mirror them, be genuinely curious, and validate them. Show them by your actions how it feels to be truly heard.  Eat your own veggies and show them how good broccoli can be.

Consider Your Motives
Do you want to feed your kids veggies because it makes you feel better, or because it’s good for them?  Exactly.  It’s good for THEM.  Same with Safe Conversations.  Consider why you want a certain someone to know this skill.  Could it be that you want to feel heard by them?  Maybe you think their communication skills could use a little up-leveling. That’s very kind of you and perfectly natural, but that energy will come through if that’s the only reason you want them to learn these skills.  

Do it with them in mind – how much good it will do them emotionally to feel heard and validated.  How much safer they will feel when they speak with you. How much less contentious things may be between you and them or them and others.  Let your motives, like your listening, be geared toward helping them.  You know it’s true that when you help someone else, you’re helping yourself in the process.  Share your veggies because you know it’s good for your person. 

Practice, Practice, And You Guessed It – Practice!
When you first learn and experience a new, exciting skill, that’s when you most want to share it with others.  You want them to “get” it, to experience it as you have, and to be able to participate in it with you.  Perfect!  This is the perfect time to check your motives, make it about them and not you, and then practice your little heart out.  

Practice listening without judging what they say, but simply being curious to learn more about what they think and feel. Practice mirroring them so that they feel heard, and you know that you understand them.  And practice putting yourself in their shoes, empathizing with their feelings, and opening the door to that amazing connection you experienced in your workshop or training.  

Get in the habit of eating those veggies yourself before you try to share them with everyone else. So take a deep breath and commit to talking without criticism, listening without judgment, and connecting beyond your perceived differences.  

The most effective way to share Safe Conversations with someone who doesn’t know it is to simply BE IT.  It takes patience and practice, but the payoff – true, sustainable connection – is greater than you can imagine.  

– Keva Ward
Safe Conversations Senior Trainer