Wrestling in the Mud

‘Wrestling in the Mud’

He began crying without notice, it took me by surprise. We were in our late teens and just finished cricket practice. Following our usual routine, we stuck around for an extra ½ hour, just the two of us, as best mates do. As soon as we finished he broke down. I had no clue what to do, I’d never experienced it before.

I do remember that I simply wanted his pain to go away, it felt uncomfortable and awkward for both of us. However, at the same time it also felt comforting. We were only there for a short time, not a lot was said and he soon ‘came good’. There was nothing that I did to mysteriously change things, but somehow after 20 minutes of two mates sitting side by side, as one expressed his despair and anxiety, and the other allowed these things to sit between them, things got better.

I wonder if I somehow lost this adeptness as I progressed in a career in Safety and HR or, maybe it was taken from me?

Mental health is often a tricky topic to tackle, particularly in modern organisations where the convention is that such ‘problems’, just like any other problem (or hazard), ought to be eliminated, or at least fixed where possible. The challenge is that some problems (if that’s how we want to think of them – that’s a whole other topic) can’t, perhaps even shouldn’t, be fixed; at least not easily or efficiently.

This is one thing that I have learnt during the 5 years I’ve worked with Lifeline. Counter intuitively for some, often the best approaches to supporting others is to simply be ‘with them’ as they experience pain; as uncomfortable an idea that this may be. This can help people heal and learn for themselves.

Of course, it may not help people and they may spiral into further pain and discomfort. However, this is the very nature of human beings, we are fallible and we will all suffer from time to time; it can’t be avoided. Things aren’t and cannot always be positive or cheerful, it’s our approach for how we deal with these situations that I would like to reflect on in this piece.

Let’s begin by exploring why Lifeline is so important in our community. It is an organisation that provides a place, and the space, for people to be heard, this has been the case since it began.

Lifeline was founded in 1963 by the late Reverend Dr. Sir Alan Walker, when he took a call from a distressed man who later took his own life. Determined not to let isolation and lack of support be the cause of more deaths, Sir Alan launched a 24-hour crisis support line. This service (13 11 14) now answers around 1,800 calls each day, with around 50 calls from people at high risk of suicide.

There are over 11,000 people who volunteer their time at Lifeline and on the surface, it may sound like a simple approach to what they do; that is just listening to people, as I did with my mate. While this is true in one sense, and the skill of listening is critical for the role of Counsellor, what is more important than the methods though is the methodology behind the vocation of Counselling. Exploring this methodology is at the center of what I would like to do in this piece.

So, what can other organisations learn from the methodology that motivates the profession of Counselling and organisations like Lifeline? Perhaps ‘wrestling in the mud’ provides some clues?

“Allowing people to ‘wrestle in the mud’ is one of the keys to helping others. As tempting as you may find it, if you try to pull them out, while you may think you are helping, the mud may not go away.”

These were welcomed words of advice, received when I commenced my studies in Counselling; a vocation that purposes to support others through ‘attending’ and ‘meeting’. Counselling is a profession grounded in an ‘unconditional positive regard’ for others (see below) and as McLeod (2013, p.8) notes in; An Introduction to Counselling:

“Counselling is fundamentally based on conversation, on the capacity of people to ‘talk things through’ and the generation of new possibilities for action through dialogue.”

The idea of ‘wrestling in the mud’ is a metaphor to suggest that the person who is seeking counselling must be allowed to, and be supported in, ‘wrestling with their pain’ (or concern, or anxiety). The methodology of Counselling engenders this. The key to a person ‘generating new possibilities’ for themselves, is that they must be allowed to feel tension as this may support ‘generation’. It is the role of the counsellor to support this by allowing the person to ‘feel heard’; rather than feeling ‘fixed’.

I submit that such a methodology, that requires (and permits) methods such as ‘wrestling in the mud’, is more humanising than those that insist on the methods of policing behaviors or those that are captivated by the measurement of them. These are methods that come from a methodology that cannot cope with pain and harm, and sees them as demons that must be eradicated. Paradoxically, in doing this, you would also eradicate much of what it means to be human. This is not an easy proposition to wrestle with.

The methodology of Counselling is not consistent with much of how our (western) society, especially organisations, operate. Sadly, people are often seen as commodities and the focus is on their utility. Anything that gets in the way of this is a problem that ought to be fixed or eliminated, including challenges with mental health. Organisations seem naïve that a by-product of this is isolation, seclusion and loneliness, and while the rhetoric you hear may be of a ‘care for wellness and wellbeing’, this is tested when it comes to tolerance of people who experience challenges with mental health. So why do organisations struggle to deal with and accept people who experience such challenges and pain?

The current predominately reductionist methods adopted in organisations may provide some clues. They are consistent with the way in which health, safety and wellbeing is generally perceived and treated. That is, the interest is largely on identifying and ‘making good’ the symptoms and ‘parts’. Elimination of pain and suffering trumps tolerance when the goal is efficiency.

What is needed is not an understanding people for their utility or their ‘part in the system’, but a more holistic notion, one that views people socially and as part of community. The field of Counselling that Lifeline is built on, knows too well the value of community and its importance for ‘good’ mental health.

As our CEO of Lifeline Australia Pete Shmigel noted during the organisations AGM in November 2016; “addressing the challenge of suicide in Australia is a social concern, not a medical one”. The key to supporting those who face challenges with mental health is embracing them as part of our community, which also means permitting them to do this while feeling their pain. We ought not ostracize and isolate people, but sit alongside them as they ‘wrestle’ with their challenges.

Counselling recognises people as social beings and that also ‘good’ mental health necessitates ‘belonging’ and being part of community. Organisations can hardly claim to support this if their approach is instill processes that seek to isolate, rather than bring together. In many organisations, very little attention is paid to mental health beyond what is often a superficial and short-lived interest. In many cases, it is simply a ‘problem’ to be outsourced (https://safetyrisk.net/do-you-treat-eaps-like-a-smash-repairer/). Who are the people in organisations who are required to deal with mental health most commonly?

Those working in Safety and HR are often at the front line when people experience such challenges. This may be when someone has been injured or a person is feeling anxious or distressed. In such situations, it can feel counter intuitive and uncomfortable to resist the urge to fix and control, however Counselling does this well. So, what can be done by those at the coal face when faced with such challenging situations?

Firstly, we need to resist the notion that it’s much better if the problem ‘just goes away’. The key is accepting and supporting rather than dismissing. However, this may take time and be grey and messy; so too is ‘wrestling in the mud’. When Counsellors ‘meet’ people, their priority is ‘presence’ and listening without agenda (attending), not ‘absence’ (eliminating) or fixing (crusading). Sadly, there is no space for ‘meeting’ in organisations that are deeply rooted in efficiency, standardization and regularization.

The methodology that models ‘wrestling in the mud’ on the other hand, accepts that problems will co-exist with people going about their lives and it allows people to tackle them while experiencing pain. ‘Wrestling in the mud’ means that we do not need to be expert in others, rather they are the experts in their own life. As noted earlier, one of the keys to successful counseling is ‘unconditional positive regard’ a phrase coined by Carl Rogers who notes that:

The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.

So how did our society end up in a place where adopting this approach is often the exception rather than the norm? Perhaps a short understanding of the history of counselling might be helpful?

Counseling can be traced back to the beginning of the eighteenth century when the industrial revolution brought about large scale changes in society. Before this, people generally lived in small, local communities where the head of the church, or community elders would usually support people who were experiencing personal challenges. Further, people who appeared to have more serious medical (or mental health) problems were also generally tolerated more than you would see today. Gone are the days where people would be considered ‘down on their luck’ or just different; nowadays, they must be labelled and sorted.

The introduction of the industrial revolution also meant more fragmented communities, a greater focus on efficiency and with this a shift toward placing people with mental illnesses into asylums. As French Philosopher and Social Theorist Michael Foucault explains in his book Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason;

…. the modern experience began at the end of the eighteenth century with the creation of places devoted solely to the confinement of the mad under the supervision of medical doctors, and these new institutions were the product of a blending of two motives: the new goal of curing the mad away from their family who could not afford the necessary care at home, and the old purpose of confining undesirables for the protection of society. These distinct purposes were lost sight of, and the institution soon came to be the only place where therapeutic treatment can be administered. He sees the nominally more enlightened and compassionate treatment of the mad in these modern medical institutions as just as cruel and controlling as their treatment in the earlier, rational institutions had been.

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madness_and_Civilization

During this period also grew the field of psychotherapy. Counselling shares some of the philosophies of psychotherapy, however it has stronger connections to social reform and a strong presence in the voluntary sector. You can see this in the way that Lifeline operates.

Perhaps there is a lot we can learn from our past about how we deal with people who experience challenges with mental health? Attending and tolerating are surely more humanising than isolating and rejecting.

What can modern-day organisations and those in Safety and HR learn from all this?

If we see ourselves as valued and trusted ‘Advisors’ in our organisations, and if mental health is and will continue to be one of an organisations greatest challenges, then don’t we need to better learn the skills, and more importantly reflect on the methodology offered by Counselling? That is, to support others to ‘wrestle with’ and find answers for themselves, rather than aim to control them.

I wonder if these questions may help us to further reflect and continue a conversation?

  • How do we feel when others appear to be ‘wrestling in the mud’?
  • How do we respond when others appear to be ‘wrestling in the mud’?
  • What societal factors may influence how we feel and respond?
  • What do others learn if we continually ‘pull them from the mud’?

Perhaps working in Safety and HR creates your own feeling of ‘wrestling in the mud, how is that for you?

How do you cope when people are ‘wrestling in the mud’?

*Acknowledgement: a special thank you to the friends who critiqued my initial version of this blog and provided some great questions to help me further reflect on the ideas shared here.


Advanced Return to Work Training

A Humanising Approach

Key Questions:

  • Are you frustrated by the workers comp. system and looking for innovative ways to naviate through it?
  • Are you interested in learning about how we can better support people with injuries?
  • Do you want to learn more about people and how we make decisions?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this Workshop may be for you.

Workshop Facilitators

This Workshop will be facilitated by James Ellis from Framework Group and Rob Sams from Dolphyn.

James and Rob provide a unique mix of both hands on experience and study in the fields injury management, physiotherapy, social psychology along with health, safety and well-being. The focus of their work is to develop a more humanising approach to Return to Work which seeks to benefit people who are injured at work along with their employer.

Read more about the Workshop and book by clicking this LINK

Introductory Workshops – Social Sensemaking

Intro. Workshops – Social Sensemaking in Melbourne 27 & 28 Feb.

Author of Social Sensemaking Rob Sams, along with good friend and Chapter Contributor Hayden Collins, will be hosting two Introductory Workshops to Social Sensemaking in Melbourne on:

  • Monday afternoon (3-5pm) on 27th Feb. and;
  • Tuesday morning (7-9am) on 28th Feb.

The sessions will run for two hours and will introduce participants to the key tools and concepts that inform the idea of Social Sensemaking.

The cost is $150 pp which includes a signed copy of the the book.

You can message us at contact@dolphyn.com.au if you’re interested in attending or have any questions. Details of venue will be sent to those who express interest.


A Small Change and ‘Y’ it Matters?

A Small Change and ‘Y’ it Matters?

Perhaps one of my most important discoveries during the ‘learning adventure’ of the past few years, is of how much I don’t know.

This is despite participating in formal studies, working full-time in the field I studied, sharing in relationships with people, being a Father of a (now) teenager and writing a book, all of which helped me to learn a lot; yet still there is much I do not know. This creates a feeling of excitement as I think about the further learning that (I hope) lies ahead of me.

This is because I find learning both liberating and energising. Especially as I seek to better understand people and how we make decisions and judgments about risk.

However, there are also challenges that arise when we learn and subsequently come to a feeling of ‘knowing’; it can ‘do something to us‘. I used to suggest that; ‘it’s knowing Y that matters‘, however I now ask; is it, and also what is it that ‘knowing’ may do to us?

These are the questions that I explore in this piece.

Throughout my life, but in particular over the past few years, I’ve come to realise that one of the key dilemmas that comes about when we have a feeling of ‘knowing’ something, is that while it helps us in learning, paradoxically it may also hinder it. That is, could a feeling of ‘knowing’ also bring with it the idea that we no longer need to explore, ponder, reflect and seek to understand? Do we then stop asking questions and seeking to learn?

Is it our struggle with this paradox that means that we can so easily be seduced into the methods of ‘knowing’ through reductionism?

After all, it does seem much easier to understand ‘pieces’ or ‘bits’ rather than the ‘whole’, which is more convoluted, challenging, often contradictory and complex. This is why it is important to understand the ‘methodology‘ that drives our desire to ‘know’. So why is this critical for learning and in dealing with risk?

If our worldview is focused simply on ‘knowing’, rather than continually questioning and thinking critically, then we may well struggle to deal with risk. This is especially the case if we fall for the trap that we believe that we know all that there is to know, or more commonly; all we need to know.

If our goal is to better understand people and to deal with risk, isn’t it crucial that we develop more critical thinking, continue to be skeptical of those things that we seem to know, and be free to ask questions?

Risk is about uncertainty, isn’t it? It is not a fixed, binary or always objective topic. It is understood differently by different people. It relies on hope, chance and faith, none of which can always be viewed through an objective or logical lens. We could easily be tempted into thinking that our ‘knowing’ is a fixed idea or state where once we know something, that’s it, we know it, no further action required. However, if we want to ‘know’ more about risk (uncertainty), don’t we need to be continually evaluating, reflecting, learning and questioning.

I wonder if it would be better for me to suggest that ‘it’s asking Y that matters‘?

Having said this, I do understand and accept that we cannot always resist the very seductive and appealing nature of ‘knowing’ through the lens of reductionism. Humans (me included), often have strong desires to want to break things down in order to understand (‘know’). But is this going to help us develop a better understanding of risk?

The irony is not lost on me that I am writing a piece about ‘knowing’ that in many ways suggests that I ‘know’ about ‘knowing’; I find it terribly challenging to escape. Perhaps it is by trying to describe it through words that is the real challenge? Maybe that is a topic for a whole separate piece.

Maybe it would be best to finish by reflecting on the words of Carl Jung who notes in his book The Undiscovered Self (1990):

“If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude. I can only approach the tasks of understanding (sic) with a free and open mind, whereas knowledge (sic) of a man, or insight into human character, presupposes all sorts of knowledge about mankind in general.”

Jung (1990, p. 6)

Maybe Jung, through this supposition provides us with further fodder for reflection on the topic of ‘knowing’ and learning?

A Change Was Needed…

Reflecting on this point myself over the past few days while in conversation with a few close friends has had an impact on how I think on the topic. This caused me to be less concerned with ‘knowing’ and instead more interested with questions. It sparked a small, but what I feel is significant, change at Dolphyn.

Primed with the above thoughts, can you pick it?

Share Your Thoughts for a Chance to Win…

If you can spot the change and you would like to offer a comment or thought on it, and/or on the topic of knowing and learning, (either by commenting below, or to me directly at robert@dolphyn.com.au), I’m offering three copies of my book Social Sensemaking to the three thoughts offered that I enjoy the most.

To spark some thoughts, here is some feedback from one of my closest and critical friends:

“One thing I don’t like about these statements is that it emphasises only one part of the learning process (or praxis/critical consciousness as Friere termed it). 

We need to identify the issue and try to understand why its important; this is where asking and critical thinking is important. But without action and reflection (leading back to identification) we haven’t created change and the learning process is incomplete.

I know we can’t make logos perfect (they are just a form of model after all) and this one is way better than most of the shit out there and leads to some great conversations, but that is where my thoughts go when I see it.

I wonder what else we are missing and over or de-emphasising when we are creating these logos, phrases and models? Is it even important to know?

Do you have a thought on ‘knowing’ that you’d like to share?

PS: One final note that I’d like to make about the minor change that I have made. I acknowledge that slogans in themselves are the result of being seduced by reductionism. It seems  breaking down all of my thoughts and ideas on the work I do down to one phrase is a classic example of how easily I can be seduced into it, even after writing an article warning of it! Yet I still did it. I guess I will have to continue to ask myself Y…


Social Sensemaking – Book Launch Dates & Venues Confirmed

Social Sensemaking – Book Launch Dates & Venues Confirmed

Human beings have long been fascinated with the question of ‘why we do what we do?’. For some, the desire to understand this becomes a lifelong quest. For me, it was a fascination with this question that lead me to commence a ‘learning adventure’ to better understand people and risk. It is my reflection of this ‘adventure’ that I share in this book. That is, how we make sense of risk through a means that I’ve coined Social Sensemaking©.

I am now pleased to announce that the dates and venues for the launch of Social Sensemaking have been confirmed and are outlined below. If you would like to attend one of the events, simply click on the RSVP link. We would like to confirm numbers for each event as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements for catering.

Dates and venues are:

  • Brisbane Thursday 10th November – The Brisbane launch will coincide with the three day SEEK (Event Investigation) Program that will be facilitated by Dr Rob Long, who will also launch the book. Those attending this event will also get the chance to meet with my long-time friend and supporter Dave Collins. You can RSVP for the Brisbane Launch HERE
  • Sydney Thursday 17th November – The Sydney launch will be held at the Eden Gardens Nursery at Macquarie Park. Good friends and supporter’s Dr Rob Long and Gab Carlton will launch the book in Sydney. You can RSVP for the Sydney Launch HERE
  • Adelaide Tuesday 22nd November – The Adelaide launch will be held during the ‘opening drinks’ of the Annual Conference of the Society of Risk Analysis (SRA) and is open to anyone to attend. The launch will be led by local Adelaide based risk expert Matthew Thorne with Naomi Cogger, BSc(Hons), PhD Senior Lecturer Epidemiology from Massey University in New Zealand, providing a critique of the book.  There will also be an opportunity to meet many Members of the SRA including President-elect Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson. Attendees will be able to join the SRA during this event. You can RSVP for the Adelaide Launch HERE
  • Newcastle Tuesday 29th November – The Newcastle launch will be held at the office of Lifeline Hunter Central Coast. The book will be launched by the CEO of Lifeline Hunter Central Coast, Gillian Summers and all profits from books sold at this event will be donated to Lifeline Hunter Central Coast. You can RSVP for the Newcastle Launch HERE

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at each of the launches and Rob would be delighted to sign them for you on the night.

If you can’t attend one of the launch events in person but would still like to buy the book, you can do that here – https://dolphyn.com.au/news/books/

We hope to see you at one of the launch events.


Robert Sams

Email:                      robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                        www.dolphyn.com.au

Book:                        Social Sensemaking – Click HERE to Order

Social Sensemaking Logo

Disrupting the Methodology of Safety

Disrupting the Methodology of Safety

There seems a real focus at the moment on finding better and ‘different’ ways (or methods) to ‘do’ Safety; both in organisations and for those working in the field. There is a lot of good discussion happening and in particular, it is positive to note that much more attention seems to be focused on a greater understanding of people and why we do what we do. Disruption is the buzz word, and in this piece I ponder what it is that we should really be disrupting.

To begin, I do consider a greater focus on understanding people as a step in a better direction (rather than a direction of fear, blame and punitive measures), however, it is also a path that we need to tread down carefully and cautiously.

So why do I suggest care and caution; surely any different ‘method’ we develop that focuses more on people is good (and better), right?

While it is hard to argue with this on face value, the question that comes to mind as I reflect on this, is of what a search for a new and/or different ‘method’ will achieve, without a corresponding challenge and disruption of the predominant ‘methodologies’ (worldviews) that seem to dominate in Safety?

Do we need to be cautious not to get trapped in the especially seductive appeal of new techniques, tools and gizmos (all ‘methods’) and instead, really challenge ourselves to ‘disrupt’ and question the predominantly ‘engineering’ and ‘fixing focused’ methodologies that seem to lead our current approach to Safety?

This is the question that I would like to explore here and I will do this through a story about a recent experience.

Read the full article first published HERE

Does our World Need More ‘Lore’ and Less ‘Law’?

Does our World Need More ‘Lore’ and Less ‘Law’?

I was at a function recently where the customary ‘Welcome to Country’ (see a link HERE if you are not familiar with this custom) was conducted by a local and charismatic Aboriginal Elder ‘Uncle’ Bill Smith. This ‘Welcome’ was being conducted at a function to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

Most similar ceremonies that I have experienced are relatively short and usually involve the Elder simply welcoming the participants, to a meeting or conference for example, to their ‘Country’. Aboriginal people are considered (by most) people in Australia as the traditional custodians of our Country and this custom acknowledges this.

The approach taken by Uncle* Bill was a little different. I learnt a lot from his short time talking with us that morning. In his ‘Welcome’, he spoke about our local area; its history and importantly its story. He also shared some insights into Aboriginal well-being and culture. His key point to us was, that if our focus is on the prevention of suicide, we ought to concentrate on fostering greater community and togetherness, and on also sharing our stories with each other. He pointed out that there is real healing (and preventative) power that can come from participating in community and storytelling. It was a poignant and relevant introduction to the day.

In making this point, Uncle Bill highlighted to us the importance in Aboriginal culture, of stories shared and passed down through generations by Elders. He referred to this as “walking, sharing and learning together” and said “our stories are how we learn and how we support each other”.

This at the heart of what I would like to share in this piece today.

As I reflect on our society today and in particular in how we go about work, it seems to me that we often discount the power and importance of sharing stories. In fact, I would argue stronger than this, and suggest that in our work, the sharing of stories is often frowned upon and too easily terminated, rather than embraced.

For example, have you ever been in conversation with someone at work (sharing a story) and felt guilty. You know, those conversations that end with; “well we had better get back to work”. It seems like building relationships and sharing stories is sometimes not considered work. Why is that?

Perhaps this is what happens when you understand people for their utility rather than their creativity, their uniqueness and their reason for being? Don’t we need more stories? And, do we understand what stories really are?

Some people may also argue that we already have connection and connectedness in our modern world. These same people may sight social media as their example. But do we? Are the articles, posts and opinion pieces (just like this one!) that we read and share on social media, done in the spirit that Uncle Bill was referring to?

Perhaps there is a lot that we can learn by reflecting on Uncle Bill’s idea of sharing stories, particularly at work, and certainly in risk and safety.

After I heard Uncle Bill talk, I was reminded of a book that De got a while ago from another local (to me) Aboriginal Elder, (Uncle) Paul Callaghan. Paul’s book is called Iridescence and it provides some great insights and further learning that was prompted by Uncle Bill’s talk.

Paul starts his book with his “6 L’s Model” in which he describes as:

“The 6 Ls is a model that demonstrates the relevance of the wisdom on the Old People in our modern World. The model provides you with a different way of thinking about who you are, where you fit in and your obligations in life” (p.15)

The six “Ls” are; Lore, Love, Look, Listen, Learn and Lead.

It is the first of the six ‘Ls’, the L of ‘Lore” that I will focus on in this piece. As Paul notes:

“And the first L we call Lore. L-O-R-E law comes from a word called folklore” (p.16)

‘LORE’ in Paul’s world is about stories, and as he notes; “In the Aboriginal world everything, every different species, type of rock, animal, reptile and person has a story” (p.17). He further notes:

“Story was critical in traditional Aboriginal people’s lives and provided the platform to ensure connectedness between the individual and their surroundings. From the day you were born, you were taught the importance of your surroundings and to connect with and respect those surroundings. Aboriginal people often call their surroundings ‘their place’ or ‘their country’” (p.16)

Paul also suggests that:

“A story has flow and connection. For many of us we don’t live a story. We don’t flow and connect. We choose to love a chaotic, unconnected scattering of sentences. No wonder we feel unfulfilled.” (p.27)

It seems to me that this tradition and history within Aboriginal culture could teach us all a thing or two if only we reflected more on the lives and ways of the original inhabitants of our land. The idea of sharing stories is about love and being with each other, rather than the content and technique of a conversation. As Paul notes:

“Aboriginal L-O-R-E is an experience of unity and connectedness underpinned by love. Non-Aboriginal L-A-W is an experience of compliance, control and authority underpinned by fear of potential punishment” (p.16)

Why do we seem to have lost our ability to ‘walk, share and learn’ together? Why is it that our connection in today’s world is through ‘likes’ and ‘shares’? What happened to conversation? Why do we often feel guilty when we are sharing stories, ideas and building relationships? Have we become so focused on efficiency and utility that we have lost our way in how we ‘connect and share’? Do we appreciate our ‘elders’ in the way that our Aboriginal brothers and sisters do?

I don’t think there would be many in our world today who would argue that L-A-W is not important and of course it is necessary in supporting living in community. Certainly the opposite in a ‘laissez faire’ approach would mean chaos and way too much ambiguity for most people to deal with.

However, I do wonder; does our world need more ‘Lore’ and Less ‘Law’?

What are your thoughts on this idea?

* The term ‘Uncle’ is often used in Aboriginal communities when referring to their Elders.


Robert Sams

Email:                       robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                          www.dolphyn.com.au

Book:                        Social Sensemaking – Click HERE to Order

100 Books Sold in Week One

New Book – Social Sensemaking


This book, and the idea itself of Social Sensemaking©, was born from a search for a more humanistic approach and methodology to supporting people to deal with risk. That is because in order to make sense of risk, we need to commune and converse with others; it is a social activity.

The book is written in the form of a ‘reflective journal’; it is not a text or a report on formal research. Instead, it is a collaboration of stories and experiences in how we make sense of decisions and judgments; particularly about risk. It questions the traditional controlling and dictating methods that can be too easily adopted by the Risk, Safety and HR fields, and offers ideas that are more ‘humanising’.

We invite you to join in the ‘learning adventure’ shared in the book – you can order your copy now.


Here is what people are saying about the book:

Social Sensemaking fills a critical gap in the risk and safety professions in that it provides a different, more humanistic perspective on how to deal with people, our most precious resource. Rob does a great job balancing very technical, sometimes sensitive topics, but in a way that is approachable and practical. These ideas are powerful and have great potential to make positive change in any organization.

We were thrilled to read the review by Rob Long after his first reading of the book.

Rob notes; “How timely then is this book as it brings fresh and invigorating insight into the challenges of risk.” and; “The first thing that this book does is model its own message. It is a book of humble enquiry and narrative about discovery, learning and maturing. Rob Sams has articulated his journey very well and provides a structure and style that allows the reader to join in that journey.

You can read the full review for yourself HERE.

I love the idea of a reflective journal; this fits so well with both Rob’s style and the intention of the book in being one that inspires people on their own ‘adventure’ as Rob calls it.

I have learned that life and people can be challenging to understand; as Rob says, we are grey, messy and at times perplexing creatures, and our decisions and responses are layered and complex and nuanced.  It can be hard to make sense of things. That is where this book provides some great insights.

This is a book for anyone interested in learning more about people, about why we do what we do and how we make sense of things – or even whether we need to. I feel most privileged that much of what is written in this book I have experienced firsthand. I have gone on my own journey as a result of my many discussions with Rob, and I look forward to future travels.

Would You Like to Get a Feel for the Book Before Ordering?

To give readers a sense of what the book is about, Chapter One along the Preface and book Index, are available to download now for free. Simply click HERE, or on go to Dolphyn’s ‘Book Page‘.

Chapter One sets the scene for the book with Rob sharing a story about a special mate, Beavo. It is a reflection of a great mate and a fitting story to begin an exploration in better understanding people and how we engage with risk.

Order Your Copy Today

If you’d like to read the book for yourself, you can now order your copy now by clicking on the link below:


Dolphyn Newsletter – July 2016

Dolphyn’s latest Newsletter is out with updates on:

  • Our First Book called Social Sensemaking : a reflective journal, how we make sense of risk. 
  • The launch of Dr Robert Long’s latest book – Risk Conversations : The Law, Social Psychology and Risk
  • An update on Dolphyn’s revised Due Diligence program
  • Information about the upcoming SEEK Program in Melbourne
  • Links to our most popular blogs over the past few months

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so why not drop us a line at contact@dolphyn.com.au

Of if you’d like to learn more about Rob Sams’ first book Social Sensemaking, send us a note and we will put you on our mailing list.

You can read a full copy of the Newsletter HERE

The Power in Silence

The Power in Silence

Effective communication, conversation and consultation are vital in our support of others to learn about, and discern risk. So vital in fact, that if I were asked; “what is the one of the most helpful things that we could do to better support others in dealing with risk? I would certainly include conversations high up on the list.

So this sounds pretty straight forward right? We can better support others simply by striking up more conversations, by chatting with people more, or by having a yarn?

But is it that simple? And, if it is, why do so many of us struggle to do this well?

In this piece, I ponder on how we can make our conversations effective. In particular, I explore the power that silence may play in this.

While it may seem counter-intuitive (particularly for us in the western world), silence can be one of the most impactful, and influential, part of any conversation. If our focus is on others, speaking less and listening more, are critical ingredients in the mix of what makes a conversation effective.

That is, when we direct our attention to what Buber calls, ‘meeting’ people, rather than simply existing with them, this is when we really join in relationship with others. Sometimes it might be what we don’t say that can create ‘meeting’, rather than existing.

Sometimes not responding with answers to questions, or concerns, is the most powerful response. And sometimes, when we allow the space and time for thinking and reflection, this is when others can learn so much.  If we see our role to provide answers and solutions to every problem, perhaps this is one of the things that makes silence in conversation seem counter intuitive, and uncomfortable.

So why can silence be so hard to deal with at times? Why may we find it awkward and distressing? And, why do we so often feel the need to fill the space of silence with words and constant chatter?

I share my reflection on this HERE.