Coining the Word Rolefulness

Nick: We are back with episode nine of the rolefulness podcast. I am Nick Kemp and joining me as always is my co host Professor Daiki Kato. Great to be talking again, Daiki.

Daiki: Yes, me too. So let's start the episode.

Nick: So this will be an interesting episode because we will discover and discuss how you coined the word rolefulness. I'm actually amazed that you coined this word, Daiki. I think it's fantastic. You're not a native speaker of English, so I'm very curious as to how you came up with this word.  

Forming the term rolefulness

Coining rolefulness

So how did the word rolefulness come about? What was the thought process you went through to create it?

Daiki: Yes, I'll introduce how I reached the idea of rolefulness. First, I'll talk about my profession. So my profession is clinical psychology and art therapy. Recently, I've been interested in how we establish relationships in group activities. I investigated the psychological process during the collaborative art expression using LEGO blocks. 

Participants were divided into small groups or four members and asked to make anything they like using Lego blocks together. The research evidence showed that trust for others and the sense of role increased remarkably. I noticed that a sense of role is very important to understand our interpersonal relationships, and it's a key concept of future studies. 

The social role is one of the most important research topics of psychology. Previous research focused on specific roles such as job position and parental role, but I thought that we have a more common sense of role satisfaction which doesn't be limited in the specific situations. 

Then, I was thinking about a new name which presents my idea. I wanted to show the image and feeling of being fulfilled by role satisfaction. At that time, I remember the word 'mindfulness.'

Nick: I remember you telling me this story. So that's interesting. So okay, this was a professional investigation for you. You are thinking, 'how can I study roles?' And you use this case study of LEGO blocks. And then your thought process started to relate that to mindfulness. So you were thinking about mindfulness, and you related 'fulness', I guess, to role?

Daiki: Yeah, mindfulness is a very popular word all around the world. It is very popular in Japan, too. Mindfulness is a dynamic psychological function to focus on the present state of our body and feeling. Being aware of how we feel and what we think are important in this process. In other words, mindfulness is a psychological state of being fully satisfied with awareness of feeling. 

The both words of 'role' and 'fulness' were connected in my mind, and I reached the idea of rolefulness. That's it. Facing yourselves and deepening your insights are important to increase your mindfulness. In contrast, the social role is important in rolefulness. Rolefulness is enriched as a result of establishing good relationships with others and finding our roles in the relationship.

Nick: Yeah, this makes sense. I think we could definitely say to be roleful, you'd also need to be mindful: mindful of your particular role, whether you're a parent, or your professional role, or even just the role of being a good friend. And to dive into the Japanese word of mindfulness, it is a cultural concept, often described by the word, is it nen?

Daiki: Yeah.

NEN 念.

Nick: So can you go into what that word means?

Daiki: The word nen includes several meanings. So it is a little bit difficult to explain its real meaning, but I'll try. The main meanings are that sense, feelings, thoughts, and spirit. In those meanings, the word nen is very familiar with the concept of mindfulness.

Nick: Yeah, the kanji of this word is very interesting, because it's made up of the radicals 'for now', over shin, which is mind or heart. That kind of creates a clear picture of what the word means. You know, your heart or in your mind is in the now--focused on the now. How can we relate this to, I mean, it's clearly related to rolefulness.  

Mindfulness as an aspect of rolefulness

Mindfulness as an aspect of rolefulness

So would you say mindfulness is an aspect of rolefulness?

Daiki: Yes, rolefulness deeply concerns how we recognize our roles and the way of thinking about ourselves and relationships with others. As I mentioned earlier, mindfulness relates with our feelings and thoughts. In that meaning, rolefulness has commonality with mindfulness. 

However, rolefulness has its originality, too. Mindfulness emphasises facing our inner thoughts. In contrast, rolefulness emphasises social roles, interpersonal relationships, and interactions with others.

Nick: Perhaps something we could add to that is this idea of rolefulness, to me, also means becoming the person you want to be in a certain context. So I want to be this certain type of father: playful, loving, and fun. As a coach, I want to be caring, but also inspiring. And so I would need to be mindful to be that type of person in those various role contexts. 

So I think mindfulness plays a strong role in rolefulness. Something I've been thinking about in the context of our role is another Japanese word, which is omoiyari. It's a beautiful word. So this is where mindfulness and rolefulness might overlap.  

Omoiyari and rolefulness

Omoiyari and rolefulness

So how would you describe omoiyari?

Daiki: I love the word omoiyari, too. It's another beautiful word in Japanese. The literary meanings of omoiyari are consideration, thoughtfulness, sympathy, and kindness. The meaning of compassion is also a very important part of omoiyari.

Nick: I've done some study on the word omoiyari. Obviously, the verb omo 'to think', and yaru means 'to do.' But I think in this context, it means to send--to send your thoughts. So almost put yourself or to put yourself in the position of someone else. But to do that in a very compassionate, thoughtful way. 

Japan is very famous for their hospitality, and so when you go to Japan, yeah, I've experienced omoiyari, I've received so much omoiyari. Often I'll ask a stranger for directions, and they won't show me, instead, they will take me; they'll often walk me two or three minutes out of their way. 

So omoiyari is a really interesting cultural concept, as well as, I guess, a psychological term. So would you say practicing omoiyari, being compassionate, being thoughtful, putting yourself in the shoes of other people is a part of rolefulness?

Daiki: Yeah. I'd like to talk about the relationship between rolefulness and self-compassion. Self-compassion is really connected with omoiyari, I think. As I introduced, compassion is a core image of omoiyari. Self-compassion is defined by Dr. Kristin Neff and one of the important research topics of psychology recently. 

Self-compassion includes three factors of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Yeah, mndfulness is one of the factors of self-compassion. It is very interesting. We have many roles in daily conversation in fact such as listening to others carefully, showing empathy and gratitude. 

Regarding these fundamental roles might increase our rolefulness and self-kindness. Common humanity is a sense of how other people think and feel the same as us. Research evidence indicates that more self-compassionate employees were better able to cope with their feelings of work loneliness. 

Turning our attention to our daily roles and others' roles are good ways to find common humanity. We can increase rolefulness and awareness of common humanity through the experience. Being aware of how we feel and what we think are important in mindfulness. 

In other words, mindfulness is a psychological state or being fully satisfied with awareness of feeling. In contrast, the social role is important in rolefulness. As I mentioned before, rolefulness is enriched as a result of establishing good relationships with others and finding our roles in the relationship. 

Overall, compassion for ourselves and others are both important for rolefulness and omoiyari. Therefore, I think that they are related to each other, they have a very strong connection to each other.

Nick: I think so. This is interesting, it's almost this idea that you have this mindfulness in the context of relationships, and that ties in every relationship would be based on roles, I would think. Whether that's roles in the family, roles in a professional context. 

And omoiyari, this compassion, which I guess needs to start with the self--have that self-compassion, and then once you have that self-compassion, you can offer it to others. So it's fascinating as we explore rolefulness, we're tying in all these other concepts of compassion, mindfulness. So it's fascinating. 

And I know Daiki, you're actually getting a lot of interest through LinkedIn, people are reaching out to you, sharing their thoughts. So that's very positive. So we should mention that if you want to reach out to Professor Daiki Kato, you can do that on LinkedIn. 

So Daiki, you have recently joined LinkedIn and written up your profile, and people are reaching out to you. So that's good. So how do you feel? This is a bonus question, I didn't really prepare you for it. But how do you feel about the response to this word you coined, rolefulness?

Daiki: So at first, I imagined a new word, rolefulness. As you introduced in the beginning of this episode, I'm not a native speaker of English, so it's difficult to explain my idea. It is difficult to express in Japanese. So we use the word yakuwari for roles. But the term yakuwari is very specific; so the job positions or the gender role, or as a parent role--very specific. 

So, it doesn't fit so well with my idea, so it's difficult to explain it in Japanese. Then I tried to make a word in English, so rolefulness fits my feelings. And I am very happy that English speakers like you understand my idea and are interested in the word rolefulness. I was very happy. 

As you mentioned, now I'm making some posts in social media like LinkedIn or Instagram, and I introduced my idea and the result of my research. So many people are interested in my post and I gained feedback from them, and I'm very happy. So many people are English speakers, but other readers are not native English speakers like me. 

I hope that the idea of rolefulness is something that is very familiar all over the world. I believe that it's a very common thing, beyond the culture.

Nick: Yeah, I think it's a universal term. It's interesting that you say you couldn't really articulate the concepts in Japanese and that it came to you by thinking ‘role’ with ‘fulness.’ I think people even from Brazil have reached out to you.

Daiki: Yes, I'm very happy.

Nick: And they wrote an article in Portuguese, sharing your rolefulness theory. So it's amazing how one word is making an impact, that you coined. So congratulations. It's amazing.

Daiki: Yeah. I hope someday the word rolefulness will be written in the English dictionary.

Nick: Well, let's make it happen. So we'll keep doing these podcasts. Next week, we're going to touch on rolefulness as a source of ikigai. So that will be interesting. Thank you, Daiki, for making this word. It really captured my heart and imagination when I first stumbled upon your paper. 

And from it, we've developed this friendship. And now we have this shared ambition and project of the podcast and the book. So it gives me a lot of rolefulness to be working with you.

Daiki: Thank you, me too. I'm very happy you found my research and you've invited me to such a nice project. Thank you, Nick.

Nick: It's my pleasure. So yeah, let's continue the rolefulness and we'll do that next week.