How to create a safe space for discussion: 3 expert tips

June 06, 2024/4 min min read
How to create a safe space for discussion: 3 expert tips thumbnail
Image of Garin Rouch
Garin RouchOrganization Development and Design Consultant

Have you ever announced a new initiative at a town hall or team meeting, only to be met with nothing but silence when you ask for questions? You can hear the tumbleweeds roll by, a lonely cricket chirping in the distance. This can be a tough moment for any leader. You're left wondering if everyone is fully on board or if there are concerns and questions lurking beneath the surface, unspoken.

Garin Rouch, is a seasoned organization development and design consultant with over 18 years' experience in helping organizations bridge the performance gap and realize their strategic goals. He is also a Menti superuser! In this blog he shares how he tackles the tumbleweed by creating a safe space for discussions.

An image of Garin Rouch

Silence doesn't always equal agreement. In fact, more often than not, it can signify hesitance or uncertainty. Many managers mistakenly interpret this silence as a sign that everyone is on board, when in reality, there may be important questions and feedback that need to be addressed.

Creating that safe space

So, how can you create a 'safe enough' environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback? 

Here's one simple yet effective tip: 

After making your announcement, instead of immediately soliciting questions from the group, break them into pairs for 8 minutes and encourage them to discuss the announcement amongst themselves.

Post Announcement Discussion

Post Announcement Discussion


This approach serves several purposes:

  • Sense-Making: People can take time to understand the information in their own way, which helps clear up any confusion.

  • Safe Space: Pairing up creates a more relaxed setting for discussion, making it easier for people to share their thoughts without the pressure of speaking in front of the whole group.

  • Relationship Building: Discussions together strengthens team relationships and encourages communication, which is key for a healthy work environment.

Once the group has had a chance to discuss, you can then invite questions and feedback from the group as a whole. Alternatively, you can utilize technology like Mentimeter to capture questions anonymously, giving people the opportunity to express themselves without fear of judgment.

Announcement Q&A

Announcement Q&A


3 tips to break the silence

Of course, this is just one facilitation tip among many. The key is to create an environment where questions and feedback are not only welcomed but actively encouraged. Here are a few additional tips for tackling the tumbleweed:

  • Lead by Example: Share your own thoughts and questions about the announcement to set the tone for open dialogue

  • Remind your team that asking questions is a sign of curiosity and critical thinking, not ignorance or incompetence.

  • Offer opportunities for one-on-one conversations

By implementing these strategies, you can transform those moments of awkward silence into meaningful opportunities for engagement, collaboration, within your team or organization. So next time you find yourself facing the tumbleweed, remember: it's not about the silence, but about creating the space for voices to be heard.

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