3 Tips for Creating Psychological Safety in Training Programs

by Jun 27, 2022

If you’re a training facilitator, you know some participants may not necessarily feel comfortable in a workshop environment. This may stem from social anxiety, power distance considerations, or fear of being judged for what they might share during the experience.

The good news is this discomfort can be mitigated by training facilitators who are willing to implement elements of psychological safety.

Psychological safety is feeling comfortable to ask questions, contribute ideas, voice opinions, challenge the material being offered, and be your true self (What powerful learning opportunities for the whole group to benefit from – am I right?) without fear of being judged, shamed, or criticized by facilitators or their fellow participants.

 

If you want to cultivate high engagement, deep retention of material, and a positive experience for learners, here are 3 tips for creating psychological safety in your workshops:

 

Be vigilant at addressing natural fears of embarrassment or marginalization.

It’s the facilitator’s job to remain vigilant at addressing these fears to develop deeper layers of inclusivity as people are encouraged to authentically share layers of their truth.

One way to do that is to encourage the quieter voices to come forward without singling out anyone. Be sure to always “call people in” vs “calling people out”. Small group work and Zoom breakout rooms also offer safer opportunities for the more reflective voices to have the space to share and this can increase inclusivity and engagement.

 

Be mindful of your own reactions.

Nothing kills psychological safety quicker than a negative reaction to what a participant shared or asked. We facilitators must be willing to do some self-reflection and temporarily suspend potential criticisms so we can better be of service to our learners.

We’re constantly tested by what’s brought forward by participants – we of course have our own biases and experiences. But we must remain mindful of what we’re projecting outwardly in responses within our training spaces.

Side note, having a negative reaction to a comment or question could also appear as favoritism for the dominant voices in the room… the opposite of creating an inclusive work culture.

 

Safely address participants or situations that are creating a negative or unsafe space.

The key is to make every experience a learning opportunity, even if it means slowing down to offer additional training concepts, share a personal relatable experience, or offer real time group coaching to navigate challenges brought up during a particular segment.

When handling adverse situations in real time, the goal is to meet participants where they are, protect them from being wronged, and invite them to have new considerations and perspectives.

Creating a psychologically safe learning environment is key to successful learning.

 

Sincerely,

Toni Herndon and the Civility Partners Team

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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