The difference between safety and connection

Scribbled in my journal, May 2018:
Scribbled in my journal, May 2018:
Scribbled in my journal, May 2018

A different mindset (and heartset) with different outcomes

We think and act differently when we focus on connection instead of safety. We often talk about safety in static terms. We say things like “you are safe” and “you are not safe”, treating it like a binary and not a continuum with realities in between. With a safety mindset, we try to protect people by controlling the conditions around them. We act like we can protect them from the perils of a constantly changing world and our own (at times unpredictable) nature by clinging to a static state of safety.

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Trauma and Mental Health

In part 2 of this series I write about how connection provided me a path to healing and resilience that safety did not, but beyond the role social connection has in stewarding healing and health for people in distress, a connection mindset is more powerful than a safety one because it adapts to the diverse and dynamic ways people respond to trauma.

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Courageous Conversations, Dialogue, and Learning

Connection has benefits that go far beyond mental health. Much of the tension around modern safe spaces happen when they are applied to educational, growth, or dialogue spaces. For dialogue and growth, we need to be authentic in ways that expose our imperfections, privileges, and assumptions-we need to be vulnerable and take risks. Dissonance and misunderstandings are natural and essential parts of that process; connection gives us ways to process that dissonance and discomfort that safety does not.

This is part 1 of the 4-part series “We need connected spaces more than we need safe ones”. If you’d like to read other parts of the series, you can find them here.


Buncombe, Andrew (2018, July 22). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admits platform not a place of ‘nuanced discussion’ as top ‘New York Times’ reporter quits after abuse. The Independent. Retrieved from

Teacher, Asian-Canadian, Writing to learn and explore

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