Today, we’re talking about relationships and our role in relationships. We unravel what it means for someone to be “unsafe” versus “safe,” how to identify unsafe behaviors, and what to do when we’re in relationships with unsafe people. We also discuss what to do to make sure YOU aren’t the unsafe person. For more information about safe versus unsafe people, we recommend reading “Safe People” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Let’s dive in!
When we talk about unsafe people and patterns of behavior, it’s important to remember a few key things. First, use this list to evaluate yourself. What unsafe behaviors do you struggle with in your relationships? Are you being a safe person or engaging in safe behavior? Then, while you evaluate your relationships, it’s important to remember that just because someone messes up or does something occasionally “unsafe,” it does not make them an unsafe person. This list is more about behavioral patterns.
And finally, this list is not meant to be used as a rubric for your relationships. In other words, don’t use this list to write off a relationship. Instead, use it as a way to foster healthy communication and change.
1. Don’t like admitting their weaknesses
An unsafe person only presents their best self and avoids vulnerability. Instead of admitting their weaknesses, they shift the focus to other people’s weaknesses and make it difficult for honest conversations.
2. Act self-righteous
They see themselves as superior and wiser than everyone else. This can result in you feeling less than, judged, and scared to be vulnerable.
3. Are religious instead of spiritual
Instead of using religious behaviors, traditions, and rituals to foster spirituality, they use them to hide what’s really going on. They have a “you’re not doing what I’m doing” mentality and focus on church attendance, performance, etc.
4. Put up a shield
Putting up a shield and refusing to hear someone else’s point of view is unsafe behavior. Their responses are rooted in insecurity, and they tend to be unsteady in the relationship.
5. Apologize but never actually change behavior
It’s important to remember that this behavior must be observed over a period of time. This person might say “I’m sorry” to shut down the conversation quickly and to avoid real change or understanding.
6. Constantly blame others
Living in a victim narrative is an unsafe behavior. They deny having control over their situation, blame others, and believe they are doomed.
7. Use flattery instead of authentically relating to people
Flattery is not the same as encouragement, and unsafe people use flattery to avoid conflict or manipulate feelings and/or actions. With true encouragement, there’s no expectation attached. With flattery, there’s something they want you to do or feel.
8. Demand trust without earning it
They expect certain things from you without communicating clear expectations and without showing you that they’re trustworthy. They expect you to know their intentions without first proving it to you.
This is not about making a mistake or getting something incorrect; it’s someone who repeatedly lies. It might come out in the form of gossiping, exaggerating, etc. You feel like you can’t take them at their word.
10. Exhibit dominant behavior
In relationships, one person can start to exhibit dominant behavior. They feel like they always have to step in and believe you can’t take care of yourself or make the right decision.
When reading this list, ask yourself what safe behaviors you practice well. What behaviors do you need to work on? The fruit of having safe relationships is life-changing. The safer you are, the more you attract safe people.
1. Show empathy
Safe people show empathy, not sympathy. In other words, they’re willing to go into the pit with you rather than pity you from afar. Empathy is doing; sympathy is passive.
2. Give you healthy feedback
It may not be easy to hear initially, but it’s empowering to receive well-intentioned feedback. Feedback is a safe behavior because it lets you know: that nothing is hidden, they know you don’t have to be perfect, they are for you, and they want you to win.
3. Want to learn from their mistakes
A safe person is willing to receive input and keeps a stance of teachability. They genuinely want to work on the relationship and can see how their actions impact the relationship.
4. Display authentic behavior
Displaying authentic behavior in a relationship shows you the other person doesn’t have a hidden agenda. They’re not being passive-aggressive or manipulative — they show you their desires and communicate openly. They are the definition of “what you see is what you get.”
5. Are responsible and reliable
You can count on this person multiple times in multiple situations. It’s not so much about performance, but about the heart behind the behavior.
6. Like to connect
Safe people know healthy relationships are crucial to our well-being, and they pursue relationships. They ask questions to connect, draw our character, and display mutual effort in a relationship.
7. Genuinely communicate
They genuinely want to understand what’s going on and understand your point of view. They are affirming and encouraging, want to hear from you, and believe the best about you.
8. Handle their anger with balance
Being angry is a healthy emotion, and safe people can get angry. But in their anger, they’re not resorting to hurtful behaviors such as getting defensive, name-calling, or blaming others. Even in their anger, they treat others with dignity and respect.
9. Bring out the best in you
Does this person draw out the best in you? Do you draw out the best in others? The best version of you comes out when you’re around this person; you like yourself better when you’re with them.
10. See you the way God sees you
Finally and most importantly, a safe person sees you the way God sees you. They see a worth and value in you that is inherent and not through the lens of their unhealth. You don’t feel pressure to prove them right; you feel the freedom to show up with your imperfections and try your best.
What do I do with this information?
For unsafe behaviors in yourself…
- Step back and evaluate yourself first
- Take it to people you trust deeply and ask if you engage in these behaviors
- Seek counsel for navigation and help
For unsafe behaviors in others…
- Don’t use this list as an excuse to back out of a relationship
- Use this list as a conversation starter to work out your relationship and heal
- Seek counsel for navigation and help
Remember that you are not alone, and we are here to help. Contact us today to make your first appointment.