Nurturing Psychological Safety in coaching

  • Anita Rajendran-See
  • 18 Mar 2022
  • 3 MIN READ

Coaching is an essential tool for creating safe and healthy work environments. However, to be effective, coaches must first understand the psychological needs of their clients. This article will provide a simple guide to understanding how to nurture psychological safety in coaching. First, we need a brief on various psychological needs.

What are the psychological needs?

Some of the most important psychological needs clients have are safety, competence, and autonomy. These three psychological needs help clients be psychologically safe in their work environments. Coaches can help their clients reach these goals by teaching them how to practice self-awareness, self-management, active listening, and other techniques for fostering a healthy work environment.

Safety is a need for security and protection from physical harm or emotional pain. It’s about feeling confident that one is not going to be violated or exploited by others. Safety allows clients to maintain an identity separate from the coach in coaching settings and feel comfortable expressing personal thoughts without fear of judgment.

Competence is a need for recognition as knowing what one does well so that others value them. The need for competence can also come up when clients experience discomfort with the amount of control over their work environment.

Autonomy is a need for independence, freedom of choice, and decision-making ability over one’s life. Autonomy allows people to set and achieve goals on their own terms and provides an opportunity for personal growth outside of the bounds of an organization or group setting.

What are some ways to ensure psychological safety in coaching?

Psychological safety is the feeling of security and protection that comes from belonging to a group that accepts, understands, and supports you. To create psychological safety in coaching, several simple steps need to be taken.

First, coaches must provide an environment where clients feel safe talking about their thoughts and feelings. This means setting clear ground rules and expectations for the coaching session and being open to any questions or concerns the client may have. Secondly, coaches should use positive language when talking about emotions and reactions. For example, instead of saying “Don’t worry,” a coach could say “I’m here for you.” Thirdly, coaches need to be mindful of listening and responding to clients. They can do this by asking open-ended questions and remaining nonjudgmental during conversations. Lastly, coaches should create a safe space for all team members, regardless of role or experience level.

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