I love relating to people, studying people, and discovering ways to effectively interact with people. As a former performer and recovering perfectionist, I know what it’s like to feel a need to perform in order to win others’ approval. And I’ve learned that I don’t ever want people to feel that pressure around me! My desire is for others to feel safe to be themselves and free to be who God has called them to be when they are with me. I’m sure most of you feel the same.
So how can we carry ourselves in such a way that disarms people and helps them feel at ease with us? How can we CREATE A SAFE SPACE FOR OTHERS?
1- Cut Down on the Criticism.
A critical spirit does not generate authenticity from others. On the contrary, it generates a drive to perform or over-deliver in your presence.
The people you love will certainly not feel at ease if you are constantly critical of them. That’s pretty obvious. However, it goes beyond how you treat them; it matters for them how you treat everyone!
Are you quick to criticize acquaintances or people passing by? Do you often voice negative comments about the way people look, their style, their walk, their demeanor, or their habits?
Even if you never do this to the people you really care about, it still leaves them feeling insecure around you! Why? Because they can easily picture themselves as future recipients of that same critical mindset! By regularly criticizing the outside world, you indirectly teach your inner circle how you may judge them if they fall short. They fear being next, so they hide their weakness and shortcomings in your presence. Remember- To allow people to be human, is to allow them to feel safe with you.
2- Cue up the Encouragement.
It is important to uplift, encourage, and compliment people. Here are a few practical tips on HOW-
-Deliver encouragement with confidence. The best compliments come from those who seem absolutely convinced that what they are saying is the truth, as if they are the experts on the topic! There is a difference between, “Uh um, I like your singing,” versus, “You did not miss a single note! You have a real depth and energy to your voice that truly moves people in a powerful way!”
-Go beyond the obvious. It’s easy to compliment one’s outer appearance. However, much of the time, they did not choose their looks (facial features, body type, etc.) Instead, complement things they did choose, like their hairstyle or fashion. It’s also easy to compliment obvious talents- like musical, athletic, or educational giftedness. Instead, seek to acknowledge their years of hard work, enthusiasm, commitment, & courage to continue.
-It is especially powerful when you encourage people in their calling or “spiritual gifts”- things like peace-keeping, generosity, wisdom, leadership, and more. Not everyone will acknowledge these things because it takes a bit of insight and intentionality to notice!
-It is amazing how being a voice of positivity can create a safe space for those you love and even for those you barely know! And the truth from point #1 above applies here too- When those you love observe you constantly encouraging everyone around you, they can easily picture themselves as future recipients of this positivity! They will be naturally drawn toward you because they look forward to being next!
3- Mirror Others.
Many psychological studies indicate the effectiveness of mirroring (aka- Matching the posture, positioning, tone, volume, and general demeanor of others.) This is to be done subtly; it’s not a game of copycat. When mirroring others effectively, they feel neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed by your presence.
Mirroring helps people feel like you are really connecting with them. For example- If someone speaks with a soft, quiet voice, and you respond loudly and abruptly, they may feel taken aback or intimidated. Similarly, if someone openly faces you while talking, but you cross your arms, look away, and face the door, it sends the signal that you’re uninterested and ready to leave.
Mirroring helps others feel that you are in sync with them and interested in who they are and what they have to say.
4- Maintain Your Confidence.
Your sense of confidence can put others at ease. Why? Because they can rest assured that you know who you are, even if they themselves have an “off day”. Living in confidence sets others free from walking on egg shells with you. They don’t have to worry about cracking you or breaking you if they make a mistake or fall short.
5- Practice humility.
When we are arrogant, prideful, and full of ourselves, we often deprive others of the attention, concern, and opportunities they may really want and need. Instead of feeling at ease, they may feel a need to protect their own egos around us.
Humility is not the opposite of confidence. There is a balance to be found, where self-esteem and self-abandonment blend beautifully, empowering us to live lives of dynamic influence! A humble and confident person can promote the potential of others, knowing that this does not subtract from their own potential. You can shine the spotlight on others, without feeling invisible yourself. When we let go of our need for constant recognition, we are free to recognize the competencies, talents, and strengths of others. Creating a safe space for others is not just about giving them a safe place to fall, but also a safe place to shine!
In Love and Peace,
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