The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Safety'? (Psychology)

Effective communication only occurs when both parties feel Safe. As soon as one party feels threatened in some way, they will withdraw mentally and emotionally from the conversation.

People need to feel safe to express what they think and what's important to them.

The STATE model to communicate without anger or defensiveness:

  1. Share your facts. Facts are less controversial, so lead with them.
  2. Tell your story. Explain your point of view, without judging or insulting.
  3. Ask for others' paths. Listen to their side of the story.
  4. Talk tentatively. Avoid judgments and ultimatums.
  5. Encourage testing. Make suggestions and ask for input until you agree on a course of action.

People have different attitudes. By knowing how to tailor your words and actions to the other party's personality, you'll get closer to an effective communication.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Safety'

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! Seriously-did you even think that through before you opened your mouth?"

Ever had a meeting like that? I know I have.

Unfortunately, this type of interaction happens all the time.

In What Got You Here Won't Get You There, veteran executive coach Marshall Goldsmith explains that high-level executives often subtly (sometimes blatantly) put down their peers and subordinates to make themselves feel smarter or more Important. What putting others down actually accomplishes is shutting down effective communication.

Effective communication can only occur when both parties feel safe. As soon as people start to feel unimportant or threatened in a conversation, they start stonewalling, shutting down communication. The threatened party may continue to interact, but mentally and emotionally, they've withdrawn from the conversation.

The only way to prevent stonewalling is to make the person you're communicating with feel safe being open and honest with you. Just as people have a fundamental need to feel important, people also have a need to feel safe when expressing what's on their mind and talking about things that are important to them.

The moment they begin to sense they're being judged, evaluated, or looked down upon because of an idea they have or a position they hold, they'll shut down.

In Crucial Conversations, a book about maintaining a sense of Safety while discussing important issues with colleagues and loved ones, authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler recommend using the STATE model to communicate without provoking anger or defensiveness:

  1. Share your facts - facts are less controversial, more persuasive, and less insulting than conclusions, so lead with them first.
  2. Tell your story - explain the situation from your point of view, taking care to avoid insulting or judging, which makes the other person feel less safe.
  3. Ask for others' paths - ask for the other person's side of the situation, what they intended, and what they want.
  4. Talk tentatively - avoid conclusions, judgments, and ultimatums.
  5. Encourage testing - make suggestions, ask for input, and discuss until you reach a productive and mutually satisfactory course of action.

Some people are more sensitive than others. Becoming more aware of your words and actions and how they might be interpreted by people with different attitudes is half the battle, If you want to communicate with someone in a way that you both benefit from the conversation and get something done, both parties need to feel safe.

The best way to do that is to avoid passing judgment and focus on making the other party feel important.

Books like Crucial Conversations, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman can help you learn how.

Questions About 'Safety'


"You can't operate a company by fear, because the way to eliminate fear is to avoid criticism, and the best way to avoid criticism is to do nothing."

Steve Ross, former CEO of Time Warner


From Chapter 8:

Working With Others


https://personalmba.com/safety/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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