Set the Stage for Safety

Take time to go through these steps slowly and practice them before you enter a dialogue session. Prepare a safe ground for discussing the topics in which you differ.

Somatic Skills: Find safety within yourself first

  • Recognize your distress responses: Notice a contraction/collapse of breath, posture, and attention (“smallify”), which trigger oppositional thinking and acting.
  • Practice expansive, centering and grounding skills:
    1. Breathe (relaxed jaw/loose tongue/soft belly),
    2. Embody love (think of something/someone that makes your heart smile), and
    3. Radiate out this sense of love in six directions (i.e., below, above, to both sides, and front/back; “biggify”).
  • A mind/body state of awareness, calmness, kindness and centered power are important foundations for conflict resolution.
  • Call a time-out for centering: Take time to re-center when needed. The content of the conflict is secondary to establishing safety.
  • For more information on developing a peaceful response during conflict, click here.

Co-Define Safety Guidelines: Find safety between you

  • Brainstorm guidelines for respectful discussions: Find ways to see the glass as “half full,” take responsibility for your part of the communication breakdown, take turns listening, refrain from blaming language, and advocate for both sides.
    • Ask the other person what he/she needs from you to make this interaction safer.
    • Let the other person know what you need to feel safe to express your views.
    • What can you do to make it safer for you to stay in the discussion and make the interaction productive?
  • Explore and identify what you both have in common: Name the values, needs, intentions, memories, dreams, and bonds you share. Write them out on a large paper so they are always visible.
  • Build a Truce: Endorse the ways you can build trust while still having significant differences.
  • Commit to Inclusion vs Exclusion: Name your desires to understand the meanings and purposes of the other, try to find openings to enter the same circle, limit opportunities to push the other out, and name ways you are in the same camp.
  • Set limits on the negative: Decide what you will not do. If they occur, decide how you will take a timeout and re-­‐set your intentions and skills. Some examples:
    • What are each person’s boundaries and limits?
    • What has occurred that has been costly or toxic to you and the other person?
    • What are each person’s boundaries and limits?
    • How can you notice what you do to create part of the breakdown?
    • What will create future safety for each of you together and in your larger community?
    • What are your agreements about confidentiality and “no gossip” guidelines?
    • When and how will you seek outside facilitation if you reach an impasse you cannot solve after several attempts?

Building a Truce

How you can get from: Power Struggles to Trusting Your Partner – Overt Conflict to Creating Safety

You might each agree to try one or more of the following:

  • Not bring up past hurts or sore spots in everyday conversation.
  • Limit discussion about past problems to only a safe place and time – in a pre-planned setting or possibly with a mediator.
  • Look for some ways the other person may be right or actually have a good point (this search can be private – unspoken – until you feel safe enough to share it).
  • Say that you are pleased with the areas you do agree on.
  • Agree to spread “good gossip” about the other person to others regularly.
  • Remember the other’s point of view is real and durable, and is as important to them as yours is to you.
  • Consider the possibility that the other’s point of view makes sense in a way that you may not yet fully appreciate.
  • Play with the thought that there are potential ways that each point of view might be worked into a healing solution.
  • Try out experimental agreements that aim at compromise (for example): Take turns – Try one person’s idea for a couple of weeks, then switch to the other person’s idea for a couple of weeks and then evaluate the situation at the end of that time.


for Safety

Read about Safety


for Understanding

Read about Understanding


for Dialogue

Read about Dialogue


for Strategies

Read about Strategies