Tips for creating safe meetings that encourage authentic communication and relationships.
Do you want more effective meetings? Do you want to encourage genuine and authentic communication between your team members? How about if the topic is controversial or difficult?
Start creating safe environments by being a facilitator. As the leader don’t dictate or teach. People open up when they are asked questions. When leading a meeting, draw people out as a facilitator. Ensure they feel heard and valued as they respond.
In addition to facilitating, set up safe meeting ground rules for the group. Present these at the start of each meeting and hold people to them.
SAFE MEETING GROUND RULES
SAFE GROUP: It is everyone’s responsibility, using grace and emotional intelligence, to create a place where everyone can be real, open and honest.
USE “I” STATEMENTS: It’s easy to talk about the issues of others. However, this is a place to put ourselves on the table. Use “I” sentences rather than “them”, “us”, “we”, “the organization”, etc. Do not purport to represent a group or other people.
ASK QUESTIONS RATHER THAN MAKE STATEMENTS.
LISTEN: Really listen and hear what is said. Avoid “thinking ahead” about how you might respond or about what’s next. Allow the speaker to pause without jumping in. Allow for uncomfortable silence while people process. Give the speaker time and space to express 100% of what they’re thinking.
ONE PERSON SPEAKS AT A TIME (WHILE EVERYONE LISTENS): No side conversations or cross talk.
DON’T OVERSHARE: Be sensitive about the amount of time you use when sharing. Avoid unnecessary “rabbit trails” and excessive detail.
NON-VERBALS MATTER: Maintain an open posture, friendly countenance, and an approachable tone. 80% of communication is non-verbal.
NO FIXING OR RESCUING: When people are sharing something personal, there can be a tendency to immediately provide counsel or condolences. This stops the sharing. Avoid trying to fix or rescue people.
DISAGREEMENT DOES NOT EQUAL DISUNITY: When it comes to tough subjects, not everyone is going to agree. That’s okay. We can still respect and love each other. We can still fellowship and worship together. Differentiate between tensions to be managed and problems to be solved.
DIFFERENCES MATTER: Loving and respecting each other does not imply that we devalue our differences. Differences are important and meaningful.
GIVE GRACE: It’s possible that people won’t make their points as well as they would like (or use incorrect terms). It’s possible that emotion might overpower content. That’s okay. We’re big enough to give grace.
ENTHUSIASM VARIES: Not everyone has the same level of enthusiasm for this conversation. Some may be excited about it, while others would rather not discuss it. Be respectful of how others may be feeling.
EVERYONE GETS A PASS: Everyone has the right not to participate. Politely say, “I’m going to take a pass on this one.” No one should force anyone else into participation.
TURN OFF MOBILE DEVICES: This is a crucial conversation. Let’s be fully present. There will be plenty of time during the breaks to check messages.
IT’S OKAY TO…
It’s okay to take care of yourself.
It’s okay to take time away. You don’t have to do anything.
It’s okay to be overwhelmed.
It’s okay to ask for help
These safe communication guidelines aren’t entirely original. Many of the ideas have been assembled from a variety of credible sources.