6 Tips For Facilitating Psychological Safety in Emotionally-Charged Training Topics (Part lI)

by Feb 9, 2022

Written by: Toni Herndon on 2/7/2022

The previous edition of our facilitating training topics that are emotional offered three tips – Be Aware, Take a Pause, and be Willing to Get Vulnerable.

As training facilitators who are providing content in topics that can ignite emotional reactions, we wanted to share some more of our expertise. Here are the next three tips that will help you show up as your best self for your participants:

Tip # 4) Be Patient.

Remember that your participants are learning and typically come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The topic you are training on, or the mindset required to do what you’re asking, may be very new for them and paying attention to the needs of the different learners will help everyone feel included.

It may take a while to build safety or rapport with participants in a training, so be sure to offer plenty of opportunities for people to trust you and each other. This could include ice breakers, small group work, and having groups select spokespersons to speak for their group.

Fine tune your active listening skills to be available to participants. This may feel time consuming in the moment, but when others see your calm and caring approach to the participant you are talking to, they will also feel calmer, more willing to be open, and more receptive to what you are sharing.

Tip # 5) Be Reflective.

Make space for this to appear spontaneously in the moment as participants are sharing interesting information that you may want to expound upon. When people share things, I often say, “What comes up for me as you say that is…” and this typically adds to a richer discussion around the topic at hand as people feel comfortable sharing what’s coming up for them.

Take time to reflect after the training by asking yourself questions like, “What went well? What was challenging? What did I learn from the participants? What would I change for the next time I teach this topic?”

Stay wildly curious about the participants in the room and what they have to offer. Don’t be the authority, as you can learn so much from your audience.

Tip # 6) Be flexible.

Be willing to entertain the tangents your participants bring up if they are relative to the topic and provide deeper learning in an area of interest expressed. Some of the deepest learning I’ve experienced in groups was when participants felt safe to take a temporary deeper dive into the topic being presented.

Follow the energy of the group and not just your agenda, take breaks when you sense the need.

When covering material, be willing to skip slides and circle back to better follow the flow of the interest of your participants. This actually facilitates better engagement and retention of material, versus sticking to your linear agenda.

As you can see, there are many things to consider when looking to build presence in one’s training. Overall, it will take awareness and practice to have these skills feel organic to both you and your participants.   

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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