By Craig Funston
There are two types of people in the world: those who are safe people and those who need safe people. More often than not, they can be the same person (just not usually at the same time).
Last week’s challenge to all, yours truly included, was to have a safe person to turn to, and be a safe person to turn to. It’s so foundational and necessary for successful relationships. The second of the two questions is our starting-point today, namely, “Are you a safe person?”
If you need a further explanation, let me re-phrase the question: Can you be trusted by others without having a meltdown? Do others find you approachable and understanding, knowing full well you won’t blow their confidence in you? Can individuals drop their guard in your presence?
If you said “Yes,” I’ll be right over.
Let me add quickly that we all need others to listen to us, to understand us. To deny this need, or worse, even to acknowledge it, yet don’t seek help for it, is tragic.
Perhaps we’re afraid of being criticized. That’s a legitimate fear, but there are times we need to be criticized—hopefully more constructively than destructively.
Indeed, being a safe person means you also have the right to correct wrong thinking or wrong actions. That allows you to fire or flunk someone; it means you can have a curfew for your kids, as part of the rules in the house. To think otherwise is, well, stupid: As a society, we’re too edgy to either connect or confront, so nothing’s safe anymore.
That previous statement, by the way, is a classic example of saying “no” or “wrong” when it’s necessary.
Being a safe person means we’re not overly-critical, but neither are we non-critical. The balance lies somewhere between allowing nothing and allowing anything. We, as wannabe safe people, often fail this litmus test because we’re unclear of our role, we fear reprisal, or we don’t want hurt those who trust us.
And the key is how, when, and why you react the way you do. The difference, simply put, might be in knowing when to speak up and when to shut up. (Kids, noticed how I used the term “shut up”?)
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a safe person, one of greatest favours they can do for you is to lovingly correct you; unchecked, your issue(s) could lead to worse consequences than you can imagine.
Safe people want the best for those who trust them, so they should never want to do them any real harm. Safe people know the crucial needs of those who come to them, so they never do anything to turn them away. The recipient may choose to turn away for other reasons, but that’s their problem, not yours.
Just keep in mind failure is not the same as determined defiance; nor is it the same as repeated mistakes. We need to allows others (and ourselves) liberty to fail, and have the freedom to admit it.
I think one of my greatest shortcomings as a father, and pardon the public confession, is that I believe I have not been perceived as a safe dad, a person who allows honest mess-ups. I have struggled in allowing myself to fail, and as a consequence, I have been too harsh on family members.
As I reflect over the past couple of decades, I should have been a bit slower to emend and a bit faster to embrace. Probably many parents feel the same way; trouble is, we just have one go at this momentous task of parenting our kids.
I assure you, I am attempting to make up for lost time–‘nough said!
But enough about me: What about you? Do you see yourself as safe person? Do others see you as a safe person? Ask yourself the same questions I asked about fourteen paragraphs ago.
The key is to know how to be a safe person, then practise being a safe person and creating a safe place.
Strangely enough, over the years, I have found this column to be a bit of safe place for me: I have felt the freedom to opine, criticize, and whine a little, with limited fear of reprisal. I assure you, I guard this trust you’ve given me very seriously. I would like to think that you feel the same way, namely, that you find in this column a place where you can read it in the privacy of your own home, have an opinion, launch a criticism, and whine a little, when I appear to be off my rocker.
Well, you’re welcome to my safe place anytime.