Words, Language, and Vocabulary

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a one day workshop on the subject of the Social Psychology of Risk. As a Safety Consultant, I looked forward to a rewarding experience. I'd bought several books by the workshop facilitator, Dr. Rob Long, well before the workshop, and I was steadily working through them. There were about 70 Safety people in the room in groups of about seven at round tables.

An early activity in the workshop had us brainstorming words (single words mostly) that related to the word risk. As a group, we had to come up with a list of about 20  words written on an A3 sheet. Then we had to come up with an agreed top 10. Next, we had to write the 10 words on to post-it notes but not tear them off. Then the post-it notes were posted on the windows in a column with 1 at the top and 10 at the bottom. Each group had their notes posted in a column on the window. 

Then the facilitator read out some of the words. I heard words that I could associate with risk. Words such as control, hazard, problem, training, hierarchy, decision, action, consult, committee and many more. Then importantly the facilitator described for us words that were not there. Starting with learning, then conversations, heuristics, people, human, fallibility, and many others. He repeated that learning wasn't there, training was but not learning. Then came some key learnings for me. risk and learning are mutually compatible and intertwined. Risk is about learning. Now for a key learning. If particular words are not in our language, and therefore not in our vocabulary, then these words and the activities they represent are not available to us. The words, language and vocabulary is from us collectively, and unconsciously.

This was a powerful learning experience for me. I'm confident that the activity could be adjusted to suit any subject. Imagine that teacher was the word used instead of risk, what words would we come up with. Critically what words would be missing from our vocabulary?

Our facilitator Dr Rob Long, is the author of many books and numerous videos in the field. I continue to read and I'm inspired to learn.  Dr Rob Long, Human  Dymensions. (https://www.humandymensions.com)


    • Dr. Nellie Deutsch
      Dr. Nellie Deutsch

      Thank you for introducing me to Dr. Robert Long. I checked his website and some online videos on Youtube. As a mindfulness practitioner, I checked for the mention of mindfulness in human safety, but couldn't find any on his site. 

      You may find the following resources on the role of mindfulness in human safety of interest:

      1. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/mindfulness.pdf
      2. http://regnet.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/2015-05/WorkingPaper_7_0.pdf
      3. https://psnet.ahrq.gov/perspectives/perspective/152/interruptions-and-distractions-in-health-care-improved-safety-with-mindfulness
      • John Davey
        John Davey

        Thank you for the comments Dr. Nellie, and for the links to the resources. Vocabulary can certainly be a powerful part of our culture and our learning. You've done well to examine the vocabulary of Dr. Long and discover there's no mention of Mindfulness on his site. Checking vocabulary in our own domain, sphere, life, learning, and workplace can be useful too.

        I'm facilitating the activity tomorrow at work for the larger team that I belong to. I'm part of the district safety unit, and the larger team is the Workforce Health Safety and Wellbeing Unit. It will be interesting to see if mindfulness is used there. We have the Wellbeing team there tomorrow, and hopefully, the words are there that match the Mindfulness poster that's on the wall in our lunchroom. Reading the article,  "Interruptions and Distractions in Health Care: Improved Safety With Mindfulness", has given me something to have a conversation about. And not just in tomorrow either. That's added to my learning. Thank you.

        • Dr. Nellie Deutsch
          Dr. Nellie Deutsch

          I'm glad to hear that there's a "Mindfulness poster ... on the wall in (y)our lunchroom". That's definitely a start. Being "awake" or "mindful" of the moment, may contribute to safety at home and at work. 

          I wish I were there in the face-to-face discussions. 

          • John Davey
            John Davey

            Hi Dr. Nellie,

            Recently Dr. Rob Long was in Canada, and the USA, facilitating learning programs, and meeting some of the overseas, and online students in his programs . One  student from the USA has written a paper that I thought you might find interesting. It's titled, "Is Safety a Few Tools Short of a Toolbox". At the heart of the discussion is the topic of collective mindfulness.  


            In recent times I've facilitated many sessions around safety learning, training, and updates. Mindfulness is one of the words that does not come up a lot in the exercise around words, language, and vocabulary. On a positive note I've been able to introduce mindfulness into the vocabulary of people in those sessions. I've also introduced people to the  documents about mindfulness and safety that you brought to my attention. Thank you for those links, and for what's been a very valuable learning experience. Not training but simply learning from a short conversation in a blog.


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