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15 Traits of an Emotionally 'Safe' Person

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What is a “safe person“?

Mighty contributor Jessica Glass gave her definition in her piece, “To My ‘Safe Person’: Thank You For Supporting Me Through Depression.” She wrote,

I have what I call a “safe person.” She is the one person who knows my whole story. She’s been with me through many tough firsts over the last year and a half, and still shows me unconditional love on a daily basis. Whether it’s me reporting that I’m feeling suicidal, that I self-harmed that day or that I just have a general unwell feeling, our conversations always end with “I love you.” No matter what.

When you’re living with chronic suicidal thoughts, are struggling to get out of bed or can’t silence the intrusive thoughts anxiety keeps throwing your way, having a safe person to talk to can be vital in your healing.

Because of this, we looked to our community to hear their thoughts on what characteristics safe people have. This list is by no means exhaustive, but talking about these traits can help us all be better supporters to our loved ones. As a note, a person can still be a safe person even if they don’t meet all of the characteristics listed below. People aren’t perfect, and won’t always respond perfectly when we are struggling. All anyone can do is be willing to learn, and do their best.

Here are some characteristics of “safe” people, according to our community:

1. They Listen First

Someone who listens with empathy and who knows they can’t fix it, but is still there without judgment.” — Beth H.

2. They Validate

“Validation. They don’t have to try to understand but they listen and validate what you’re feeling is real and legitimate. Rather than giving the ‘what if’s’ or the ‘things will get better.’ Just listen and let the person who’s struggling know what they’re feeling isn’t going unheard.” — Cherish I.

3. They Help You Grow

“Someone who helps you grow. That can be a very vague answer, but someone who will not just only be a patient and empathetic person, but also someone who will be firm enough to keep pushing you. I always feel like I have to be fake towards a lot of people because in a way, I have to protect them on how I really feel. Someone who I feel emotionally safe is, someone I can let my guard down and just be real even if it’s only five minutes seeing that person.” — Roy L.

4. They Don’t Tell You How You “Should” Feel or Think

“Other than being nonjudgmental, the most important characteristic is that an emotionally safe person will avoid saying things like, ‘Don’t think that way’ or ‘You shouldn’t feel that way.’ They shouldn’t encourage or enable me in my illness, but they also shouldn’t try to devalue or erase my experiences. My feelings and thoughts may be dysfunctional, but they are real, and to dismiss them makes me feel like a child being lectured by some arrogant authority figure who is once again telling me how wrong I am.” — Jacinta M.

5. They Stay Neutral When You Need Them To

“Two people that are the most ‘safe/secure’ when it comes to my emotions and mental health are consistently neutral when I start to speak negatively of myself, am having an overwhelming emotional response to something or am having a difficult time with any aspect of my mental health. They only react negatively when they truly feel it’s necessary, and only react positively when I ask for validation or support. This might seem strange, but it is such a beautiful and helpful thing. It gives me the space to handle and work through my ‘stuff’ independently while also feeling like I have the safety net of support when necessary.” — Stephanie Q.

6. They Are Patient

“Patience, because sometimes I’m a mess. I can be inconsistent in my actions and when I try to talk about my feelings, it can be so scattered that it’s hard for even me to follow.” — Jordan S.

7. They Don’t Judge

“An emotionally safe person is the living embodiment of your favorite blanket right out of the dryer. You wrap up in it and it doesn’t judge you. It’s warm and inviting no matter what you’re going through or what you have to say. It’ll always be there for you no matter what. You feel safe and calm, and once it’s worked its magic, happy.” — Autumn C.

8. They Don’t Take Your Struggles Personally

“The ability to not try to make my symptoms all about them.” — Lily W.

9. They Keep Their Word

“Someone who keeps their word. Says they’re going to call the bank at 4 p.m. and actually calls the bank at 4 p.m. or tells me they were unable to do it at that time.” — Falina B.

10. They Let You “Drop Your Guard”

“Compassion, listening, empathy, letting me express and process my feelings and thoughts, no judgments, patience, a caring attitude… these are the characteristics from only certain people I know that have helped me immensely and my definition of a emotionally safe person, it helps me drop my guard (that I didn’t know was up anyway) and really feel vulnerable, I cry and the weight of the issues decreases.” — Batoul I.

11. They Don’t Sugarcoat the Truth

“Someone who doesn’t sugarcoat or undermine anything.” — Stine S.

12. Their Goal Isn’t to “Fix” You

“Someone who listens and does not try to fix me.” — Amber M.

13. They Can Empathize

“Someone who has been there and can empathize in ways most other people can’t.” — Catherine S.

“Empathy is the main one for me. And compassion. I don’t want to burden anyone and I don’t want to feel like I’m burdening anyone. I have to know they actually care and want to help and listen. I know for sure of three people I can count on.” — Heather M.

14. They Are OK With Silence

“Patience and sometimes just being around someone who is quiet. My head will spin so much sometimes it’s nice to have someone that’ll just sit there with me and not make my head go any faster.” — AlliJason S.

15. They Assert Their Own Needs and Boundaries

“Forgiving and understanding, but not a doormat. Just someone who understands I go backwards sometimes and is still there to cheer on my successes when they happen. Also someone who can be the calm to my storm.” — Lisa M.

What would you add?

Unsplash photo via Hian Oliveira

Originally published: September 25, 2018
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