Want to have healthy safety conversations? Here are 10 tips

In Converation with the Safety Collaborators Podcast

Episode 010

Sep 12, 2022

In this episode...we chat about what makes healthy safety conversations and 10 helpful tips to make them happen. 

The title may be slightly misleading as these are tips for any conversation. We all have conversations daily and often with ourselves. Sometimes those conversations are terrific, and other times may not be quite as we anticipated.

So, what is a healthy conversation?

We often think about conversations as being either positive or negative; however, we like to say that it is not so much about positive or negative conversations but actually about their impact.

We prefer to think of conversations as either healthy or unhealthy. 

A friend of Nuala's once said that emotions are your stop signs, they don't have to rule you, but they are your stop signs to say, oh, hang on a sec; what are we doing here? And how do we respond to it?

So, it is the interpretation and emotions that the conversations trigger in us, how we choose to let that impact us and how we respond. Do we appreciate the power of conversations, or is it something we take for granted?

We've grown up with a narrow view of conversations, thinking they are about talking, sharing information, telling people what to do, or telling others what's on our minds.

However, that is only part of the story.

One of Karin's pet peeves is when someone says we've had a good communication or we've had a good meeting or we have good communication. It's such a broad term, so what does that mean?

I can throw a bunch of rotten bananas at you, which might suggest I've communicated, but have I? So many people do that, throwing words around like a bunch of rotten bananas without thinking much about the consequences.

Words are part of communication, and listening is part of communication. So we need to consider all of these elements. Communication is an outcome of our conversations, and the power of communication is in our conversations.  Our lives are the sum of our internal and external conversations, and they impact every corner of our lives, at work, at home and at play.  

Have you ever been at the start of a conversation that didn't turn out the way you wanted?

5 common blind spots that impact the outcomes of our conversations…

  • We assume that others see what we see, feel what we feel, and think as we think.
  • We fail to realise that fear, trust and distrust change how we see the world and how we talk about it
  • Our inability to stand in other's shoes when we are fearful or upset
  • The assumption that we remember what others say when we actually simply remember our version of what others say
  • We assume that meaning resides in the speaker when it resides in the listener.

How does this affect our safety in high-risk industries?

Think about a recent conversation that did not go quite the way you hoped …

  • Who said what to whom?
  • What emotions were flying around?
  • How does this show up for you physically?

There are different types of conversations… you might be thinking, yes, ok, so there are negative and positive ones.

We challenge you to consider them healthy or unhealthy, putting them in a very different space.

You know that if you are in the middle of an unhealthy conversation, you feel it throughout your body. Your rational thought starts to struggle, and your levels of TRUST begin to dissolve.  We need to figure out how to reduce the fear and anxiety inside our unhealthy conversations and start to increase trust and feel-good moments to convert them into healthy conversations.

None of this is easy; it takes trial and error and practice. Be kind to yourself as you will not get it right every time, nor does anyone else - even the most experienced.


Our conversations' quality determines our relationships and defines the culture within our organisations, communities and even our family homes. Nothing happens without a conversation, nothing. Think about that.

Here are 10 tips we can share for having healthy conversations.

  • Check your emotional state, and how this will benefit the outcome you are wanting
  • How are you matching the message to the person
  • Don't equate your experience to theirs
  • Priming for trust (transparency, relationship, understanding, shared success, testing assumptions/truth-telling.)
  • Reframe, refocus, redirect (conversational agility)
  • Double-clicking for clarity
  • Listen to connect, not judge and reject
  • Ask questions for which you have no answers
  • Be present, don't multitask
  • The power of silence

and here are 2 bonus tips… because sharing is caring

  • Vulnerability - if you don't know, say so
  • Go with the flow

With a bit of intelligence and understanding of how conversations impact our lives, we can minimise the damage, improve everyone's outlook, have shared successes, adventures, and so much more. From conversations, ideas, opportunities, and possibilities arise.

Emotional Gem

We, humans, are emotional beings, and at the end of each session, our gift to you is an insight into an emotion.

Did you know that we have over 250 emotions? Yet, we only understand or talk about +/- 12. By exploring these, you may be surprised at what you learn.

Karin has been studying Emotional Literacy with Dan Newby, the founder of the School of Emotions and references emotional literacy regularly during her coaching conversations.

Today's Emotional Gem is... COURAGE

  • Story: I will act even though I am afraid
  • Impulse: (what action does it trigger in us?) To act in the presence of fear
  • Purpose: Allow us to proceed even when we feel fear

Courage is the ability to act in the presence of fear. We could think of courage as the emotion we need when we face fear and need to respond to it, like many conversations we face.

Courage comes from the French word for ‘heart’. When we don’t display courage (or heart), we can be assessed as cowardly or meek, which none of us wants.

So take a step into the conversations you need to have with courage. Here are a few ways to strengthen courage…

Stand tall and breathe deep.

Being a little cautious can be a stepping stone to developing more comfort with courage. What first small step could you take that does not feel too dangerous to you?

Take the step, check the danger, plan the next step, repeat and repeat.

Similar feeling emotions: Boldness, Trust

Go forth and have Courageous Conversations


We use the iPhone app Emote: Mastering Your Emotions to select the Emotional Gem for each episode. (this is a paid-for app)

To learn more about emotional literacy and access the app visit the School of Emotions

You might also like to listen to episode 007 on Conversational Waste

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.