How to Notice When Safety is at Risk

People who are gifted at Narrative Medicine …

                Keep a constant vigil on safety

                Understand that dialogue calls for the free flow of meaning

                               Nothing kills meaning-flow faster than fear

                Recognize that when people feel unsafe, they start down unhealthy paths

                       Silence: withholding ideas, thoughts and feelings

                       Violence: forcing opinions and demands on people

                Watch for signs that people are afraid

                       Forcing opinions

                       Retreating to silence

               Look for both what and why

                       What people are afraid of

                       Why they are holding back

Use split-focus – monitor both content and proces

Notice the moment a shift happens in a conversation, the moment “things turn serious”

               Changes in physiology, e.g. Dry mouth, holding breath, tight stomach

               Attend to emotions – mad, sad, scared, etc.

                       When emotions kick up, key brain functions shut down

                       When people feel unsafe, emotions can cause them to do nasty things

            Attend to behavioral cues

                       Seeing yourself removed from the conversation

                       Seeing yourself pointing a finger, raising your voice

                       Feel yourself becoming distracted or disengaged

                        “Closing down the thinker”

            Understand that when it’s safe, people feel free to say anything

            Recode silence or violence as signs that people don’t feel safe

            Are familiar with the most common forms of silence:

                       Masking – understating or only selectively showing thoughts or                             feelings

                       Avoiding – steering away from sensitive subjects; talk around issues

                       Withdrawing – pulling out of a conversation altogether; exiting the                                   conversation or the room

            Are familiar with the most common forms of violence:

                       Attempts to unilaterally promote self-interes

Controlling – attempting to coerce others to a line of thought by                 dominating a conversation, cutting others off, overstating facts,  speaking in absolutes, changing the subject or using directive questions to control the conversation

                       Name-calling, making threats, monologuing,

                       Labeling – putting negative labels on people so we can dismiss then                                 under a general category or stereotype

                       Attacking – intending to make another suffer; belittling, threatening                                  or actually physically harming

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