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What Uncertainty Looks Like

Posted by Beth Lay, Director of Safety and Human Performance on Jun 17, 2021 7:00:00 AM

Have you ever wondered about something and rested your hand under your chin or on your cheek? That can be a sign of uncertainty. Rodin’s statue, The Thinker, demonstrates this well. If you’re stroking your chin, you may be evaluating a situation or making a decision.

Human Performance Uncertainty

Our gestures can reveal when we are feeling uncertain. Other expressions may include a furrowed brow, scrunched up nose or forehead, widened eyes, and gaping mouth along with tense feelings or tightness in the chest or stomach.

There are also ways to identify cues in language to spot early signs of problems or uncertainty.

  • Letting our guard down: “This is an easy tree” or “piece of cake”
  • Fatigued: “Last job then we can call it a day”
  • High risk: “The other contractor couldn’t/wouldn’t do it” or “I need your best crew”
  • Pressured: “This is a high priority”
  • Rushed: “There’s no time for that”
  • Inexperienced: “I’ve never seen” or “I’m not sure”

Lastly, when you think or say, “It’s probably just . . .” your mind is trying to reconcile uncertainty. Press pause and ask for a peer check (i.e., enlist your team members to see what they notice and share their ideas to do the work more safely).

When it comes to ensuring safety, knowing how to recognize the signs of uncertainty in yourself and fellow teammates is critical. It can trigger open dialog and healthy conversations about eliminating risk. When risk flags are seen or heard, we encourage you to take a moment to notice what’s going on and make the risk explicit by stating, “I hear risk.”

When we teach our teams how to recognize risk flags, or weak signals that indicate uncertainty, they can pause, reflect, and ask for one another’s help. Join us in creating safety.

This article was originally published as a Sponsor Spotlight in the March/April edition of the Utility Arborist Association Newsline

Topics: human performance, uncertainty, body language

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