Effective communication means messages passed between sender and receiver are understood as intended. On a motorcycle, that means learning how to read traffic and ride in a manner that enables them to read you. If the message isn’t getting through, you’ve got to stop and assess why your signals aren’t getting through.
9 checks for effective communication
- Acquire the skills. Develop the relationship. When you are out on the road, you enter into a relationship with all other vehicular and pedestrian traffic. In order for them to trust and respect you, they’ve got to have confidence in you as a proficient rider. Getting to know someone and how they communicate sets the stage for a positive relationship. In both cases, a basic skill element is required.
- Be explicit. Don’t assume other traffic knows what you’re going to do. Signal clearly, appropriately and follow through. At work or home, don’t assume the other person knows what you’re talking about. They may have been distracted and come in at the middle of a conversation.
- Listen more than you speak. Successful riders spend far more time processing information than they do sending it out. Do the same when you’re off the bike. Listen for both verbal and non-verbal messages from the other party you’re conversing with.
- Watch for non-verbal cues. Learning to read traffic is a survival skill for riders. Reading the message behind the message is the mark of an effective communicator.
- Use multiple cues. Complementing turn signals with hand signals increases the chances other traffic will notice you. Similarly, the more inputs you can use in your conversation, i.e. visual, auditory, sensory, the more likely your message will be understood as intended. It’s why multimedia presentations are so popular.
- Be clear and confident. You’ve seen other riders who obviously don’t have the skills to be where they are. Or they’re looking for directions and not paying attention to the road. They’re unpredictable and it makes you nervous to be around them. Similarly, getting others to trust you requires you speak and act with clarity and confidence
- Watch for patterns. If you’re constantly being cut off, check how you’re communicating to others on the road. Make sure your signals are working. In life, if you’re being consistently misunderstood, step back and look at the message you’re sending.
- Take personal accountability. On a motorcycle you’re the only one that has access to the controls. If they’re used incorrectly or ineffectively, you’ve got to deal with it. You’re also the only once that controls your words and actions. If you slip up, ‘fess up and fix it.
- Match body language with communications. Cancel your turn signals once you’ve executed your move. It’s confusing to follow someone who appears to have no intention of turning, yet leave the turn signal on. I know when I do it, it’s because I’m tired and need to take a break. When communicating with others socially or in business, make sure your body language and/or tone of voice match the words you’re sending.
With so many ways to communicate and so many messages coming at you, it’s important for your personal effectiveness to make sure you’re sending and receiving messages accurately.