I’ve been thinking about psychological safety recently.


It’s talked about loads in HR & business forums but to me it reads a little dry. How about this as a personal example?

I recently re-connected with a colleague to collaborate on a new venture. He is SUPER smart & BIG-hearted and I want to do something together. 

    • Why me? – says he.
    • Because if things go to shit, I know I’ll be able to cry in front of you without shame. – says me.
    • That’s a lovely definition of psychological safety. – says my super smart, big-hearted friend. 

That’s it for me. No matter how smart people are, if they one-up me, I shut down. If they judge me for saying something stupid when I think and ideate out loud, I shut down. If I try something new and it fails and they tell me I should’ve thought it through, I shut down. 

Daniel Goleman (the author of all things Emotional Intelligence related) offers this: 

“Psychological and emotional safety is the understanding that being honest and open is okay and won’t have negative repercussions. When we feel safe, we’re able to shut down the brain’s hardwiring for defensiveness. This, in turn, fosters healthy risk taking & innovation, etc.”

Turns out, in order to take risks, we need to feel safe. These days, when someone says they want to challenge me, I respond:

– Don’t challenge me. Help me.

Photo: Matthew Henry, Unsplash