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Safe Conversations at work —are your teammates at risk and how to help them?

  • Written by Tess Sanders Lazarus

Bill Carson launches new book to help workplaces have safe conversations – ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’

Life is unpredictable and sometimes the curveballs life throws at us can really hit us hard. When this happens, try as we may, it can be hard to keep our personal and professional lives separate. How do leaders, managers and HR managers navigate these ups and downs in life when workers show up at work, clearly struggling with a personal issue?

Bill Carson is the founder of Inspire Learning Australia Pty Ltd, holding workshops around Australia, teaching managers how to appropriately assist team members who might be struggling and suffering from mental and emotional challenges or unwellness. These workshops can be held in person or can be delivered online, and teach managers and team members about the causes of stress, anxiety, depression or isolation, how to identify the signs if someone is struggling, how to connect genuinely and appropriately, and how to have person-centred conversations separate from task-focused conversations, as well as what not to say.

Bill has now translated his experience, expertise and years of holding workshops - into a revolutionary new book entitled ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’. The new book is tipped to become a best seller among workplaces and a ‘must have’ asset for any manager navigating mental health issues in the workplace.

The new book ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’ is now available for purchase from all good book stores and online.

I am excited to launch my new book ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’. It has taken many years to write and draws on my experience in working with mental health in the workplace, and life generally!” Carson said.

It will specifically help leaders, managers and others in the workplace and my hope is that it will urgently equip people with the necessary skills to support safe conversations in both the workplace and outside of work.

Most people do not have the skills to deal with complex personal situations. My observation is that for most people, and particularly men, it is unsafe to talk about how we feel. When we open up, we get hurt by other people, and worst still, we get shamed and blamed. In our culture, there’s a stigma about being open and vulnerable, so the common advice is to suck it up and you’ll get over it.

The reason why this happens is that most people do not know how to respond to another person's difficult feelings, and they therefore respond in hurtful and dysfunctional ways.”

Problem solving is not the goal

When people respond hurtfully, it’s not because they’re doing it intentionally. They just don’t know how to handle it because they were never taught. This is how my book can help leaders, managers and others who want to understand how to have safe conversations at work and in life generally,” Carson said.

My book provides readers with ways to learn how to respond with empathy and compassion. It’s an advanced communication skill that needs to be both taught and learnt.

If you take ‘R U OK’ for example, it is a great movement that has helped to put mental health awareness into the corporate landscape. But one of the inherent problems is if you ask someone, "are you OK?" and they respond with "no, I'm not", do you then know how to respond and what to do about it? My new book ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’ is about learning how to handle this situation.

What we need is the skills to create the safety of letting people open up, rather than to be their doctor or therapist or best-buddy. It’s rather counter-intuitive and in a corporate setting, is a massive brain-fry for most managers, who live and exist to solve problems, particularly if someone's personal issues are impacting on their own and the team's performance. However, what we must learn is that it’s best practice to empower people who are struggling to access their own resources, or the Employee Assistance Program or professional help, not to be giving advice, problem-solving or trying to put a positive spin on a difficult situation.”

The ‘Making it Safe to Talk’ Movement

As much as we want to help, we are not therapists or doctors, so we shouldn’t be there to problem solve or give advice. The right thing to do is to learn to see and hear the signs that a team member or colleague may be struggling, and to engage in a compassionate person-centred conversation to empower the person to get assistance. It’s about how to make it safe to talk, and I want this to turn into a movement,” Carson added.

With my book ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’, readers can learn the skills they need to handle complex situations, whether it be in the workplace or at home or with friends, and even with teenagers!

Readers will learn how to create a space where people’s feelings are validated, where they feel both heard and listened to. If everyone did this and it turned into a movement, think about how many more people’s lives can be saved.

It’s one thing to say a one-liner and ask someone if they’re ok. The real question is how to help them feel empowered to look after their own self-care or to seek professional help, if required. We can all make that difference in someone’s life, if we took the steps to educate ourselves and learn.”

About Inspire Learning Australia Pty Ltd

Bill Carson has over 20 years’ experience and expertise in leadership roles, has a strong background in personal and professional development. He is an expert in mental health, wellbeing, mindfulness and resilience and is a Principal Master Instructor of Mental Health First Aid to organisations in Australia in retail, legal, manufacturing, healthcare, and community care.

Bill is also a committed Lifeline Volunteer Telephone Crisis Supporter having done over 650 hours over the past six years.

His company, Inspire Learning Australia Pty Ltd, holds workshops to teach all leaders, managers and team leaders how to appropriately provide assistance to team members, colleagues, friends and family who might be suffering from mental and emotional challenges or unwellness. Bill’s new book, ‘SAFE Conversations for Work and Life’ is launching at the beginning of June 2023.


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