How to Make Your Online Community Safe for Questions

Grow your community by making it safe to ask questions. This is done through emotional intelligence, group agreements, and psychological safety.

Questions are the Vehicle for Learning and Bonding

We create communities for things that matter to us whether it is our brand or our passion project. Often, because of the subject matter, questions are to be expected. Curiosity and a love for life-long learning are qualities that help us develop and grow as people. 

Fostering curiosity and conversation will help people within your community to develop relationships with one another. These relationships allow your community to grow and become sustainable. 

Exclusion or fear of exclusion is what most frequently creates team breakdowns in trust, conflict and accountability. The resulting low trust levels translate into team members being unable to fully express opposing points of view, and to fear of speaking up or asking questions that might reveal ignorance.

Rosa Carrillo

Why don’t people ask questions?

People don’t ask questions when they fear looking stupid or being directly or indirectly shamed for asking a question. Psychological safety is the most important factor in facilitating an environment that fosters curiosity. It is important that our moderators and facilitators have emotional intelligence in order to use active listening skills that ensure everyone feels valued. 

Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina has found that positive emotions like trust, curiosity, confidence, and inspiration broaden the mind and help us build psychological, social, and physical resources. We become more open-minded, resilient, motivated, and persistent when we feel safe.

Laura Delizonna

Consider Creating Group Agreements

Group agreements establish the culture of your group. They create a sharing culture that values psychological safety. Group agreements can be done for online communities or Meetup groups. 

I used to attend a networking group called Social Media Masterminds Orange County (SMMOC). We had four rules: no question is a dumb question; no pitching; one discussion; and, explain acronyms. Those rules were iterated at the beginning of each discussion. This served to help remind older members while explaining the culture to new attendees. 

Group agreements lead to normative, therapeutic culture. This culture leads to trust, cohesion, and vulnerability.

Sam Himelstein, Ph.D.

Keep Your Community Safe

Consider creating group guidelines to make your online community safe for questions. Since we’re on the topic of questions. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know!

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Brought to you by PeepSo Team Bridget Willard
I specialize in business to business relationship marketing. Teaching is the new marketing. People skills are even more important to stand out from the crowd of scheduled tweets. I earned a BA in Liberal Studies, got my Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, and after one year my path took another route. That combination of skills has presented opportunities to tutor others and help get accounts started. Go to LinkedIn for more.

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