Five More Tips for Creating Psychological Safety In Training Programs (and everywhere, really)

by Jul 28, 2022

Last month, we offered three tips for creating psychological safety in your training programs. 

To recap, psychological safety is feeling comfortable to ask questions, contribute ideas, voice opinions, challenge the material being offered, and be your true self without fear of being judged, shamed, or criticized by facilitators or their fellow participants.

As facilitators, it is imperative that we exercise our own personal leadership and take responsibility for what we cultivate in the training spaces we oversee.

Some of the leadership characteristics that promote psychological safety seem obvious, but there are always deeper layers to explore.


Here are five ways we can deepen our personal awareness to make training spaces safer:


Be Mindfully Respectful

We often think of the Golden Rule, which states, “Do unto others the way you would want them to do unto you.”

However, if we are truly being mindful, inclusive, and safety forward we will want to facilitate training from the Platinum Rule, “Do unto others the way they would want you to do unto them.” As trainers, we can stay reflective on our own training approaches and brush up on any skill set we may need to enhance our ability to offer respect to our participants in the ways that they need it offered.


Be Authentically Empathetic 

Empathy is often defined as placing ourselves in the shoes of others to generate an understanding through a shared experience. This is a beautiful way to have a deeper understanding of what others must be feeling and dealing with on a personal level.

Sometimes empathy can be generated within us by silently reflecting on an area in our own life that may be similar to the person’s experience; then we can dig into the similar root feeling that is being expressed and empathize.

In the moments when we have no frame of reference for what another is experiencing, it’s best to be honest about it. You might say, “I can’t imagine what that must be like for you to _______, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us so that we can all learn from it.”

This will go a long way in building safety to express within the training space. 


Kindly Address Negativity

This can start even before the training gets into the meat of the curriculum if you set group agreements up front. Allowing participants to add to these agreements can also enhance psychological safety.

Some of the agreements may include not interrupting each other, putting cell phones away, or even sharing the talking time equally during small group time. 

Additionally, when something comes up in real time in a group setting it is also imperative that the facilitator remember that it is a learning opportunity and utilize Humble Inquiry and other compassion coaching approaches to unpack what just happened and reestablish safety in the space again.


Unitize Active Listening

We’re all familiar with the classic ingredients that form the recipe for deep listening – eye contact, paraphrasing what the speaker shared, leaning forward, and the well-placed verbal affirmation.

Beyond that, be intentional in catching and handling disruptions, or navigate any microaggressions or other uncivil acts when they happen. When your participants know you are really paying attention to them and their full environment, they’re more likely to feel safe and will contribute more often. 


Model Leadership & Vulnerability

As a facilitator, participants will look to you to see what is acceptable, what is tolerated by their peers, what tone is being set, and how you hold this container they sit in during the program. If you’re willing to be vulnerable, and also demonstrate constructive ways to navigate anything that is brought into the space, it will allow people to reveal more of their authentic self. 

In a nutshell, when people feel safe, they learn better and they learn more. When people feel heard and are supported to contribute, they retain better. When questions/concerns/challenges are encouraged and addressed compassionately, active engagement rises. When people feel seen and accepted for who they are, they are able to leave training programs feeling empowered.

Taking the time and effort to ensure psychological safety can make all the difference in obtaining our objectives as trainers, and it can even be downright transformational for our participants. 



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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