Toastmasters as a Safe Space

Day 84 of #100Daychallenge

toastmasters-logo@2x

I’ve been thinking today about my opening presidential speech at the next Toastmasters meeting. I want to talk about safe space. We had guests at a previous meeting and I spoke to them afterwards about the similarity between a Toastmasters meeting and a peer support group for LGBT people. I want to talk about that at the next meeting, before the meeting to set the tone.

This is a safe space. We come here to support each other. We come here to see and hear each other, to witness each other. Everyone is welcome here, no matter what your religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender idenity, class, temperament, mother tongue, or ability. Everyone is welcome here.

We have some unspoken rules about how that safe space works. Sometimes it is important to make those rules explicit.

  • When someone is talking, no one interupts. Never interrupt the speaker.
  • Give the speaker and the meeting your full attention. Turn off your phone. Don’t have private conversations down the back.
  • Never challenge the speaker on their opinion. It is theirs. Everything we do, we do to create an environment where people feel valued for who they are, where they feel safe enough to stand and talk.
  • Always, always, always applaud when someone has spoken. It took courage.
  • Be mindful of your jokes. Joking about violence, or using hatespeech of any sort makes everyone uncomfortable.
  • If you have construcive feedback to give to a speaker, offer it privately. And accept their no if they do not want to hear it.
  • Be yourself. We want to get to know you. Your differences make you interesting. Share your interests and your experience with us when you talk. The more of yourself you share, the more open you become, the better the experience will be for everyone involved. You enable everyone else to be themselves. I name my gayness frequently. I want people to know that being LGBT is very welcome, and talking about your life experiences, whatever they are is welcome.

Remember, our mission as a club is:

We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

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