I had a great group of people on my 2 day health and safety passport course this week, but just like a lot of my other groups I watched them struggle with one particular type of question. I obviously cannot say what the questions are, but what I will say is that they involve the word NOT.
So if for example I was to ask a simple question;
A Risk Assessment does NOT:
a) Identify the hazard
b) Evaluate the risk
c) Eliminate every risk
d) Specify precautions
Would you have to read it twice to be sure of the answer?
If your answer is yes, it is because of the way our minds work. When we think, the process is normally unconscious, we become consciously aware of the result of the unconscious process, for example when a certain smell takes you back to a childhood memory , it is your unconscious mind (your storehouse of all your memories and experiences) that brought the memory to your conscious awareness. Our unconscious minds respond to triggers, emotions and metaphor, it doesn’t have direct use of language, because of that, the unconscious mind finds it difficult to process negatives. Your unconscious mind has to process the “thing” it doesn’t have a concept of “not thing”.
So when I have a delegate who comes in who hasn’t done a test for 30 years and is really worried, they say to me “I don’t want to fail” the message they are actually telling their unconscious mind is “I want to fail” and our unconscious will do it’s best to fulfil that request. They really need to tell themselves “I want to pass” and then their unconscious mind will do it’s best to fulfil that more positive request. But that is for another discussion.
Back to the test question, if a test question has the word not in it, then your unconscious mind will be confused (for that reason it is a tool purposely used in hypnosis). I tell my delegates, if a question asks you what does something NOT do, reverse it (Put your finger over the word NOT if you need to ) think about what it does and the one left over is going to be the right answer.
For the purposes of Health and Safety, it is worth considering, should we avoid do’s and don’ts lists which use phrases like “do not cross the line” or should we be saying something more easily processed by all like “stay behind the line”.