by Liz Jansen
Although signals and break lights are an admirable first step, assuming that those communications have been acknowledged and understood, and that drivers will respond appropriately, could prove to be a grave error.
As an operator, you control the signals you send out—signals that extend beyond the electrical devices on your motorcycle. Apply the same principles at work, home, or the gym to make sure the messages you’ve sent have been received as intended. It can save a lot of heartache and wasted energy.
- Use your signals. It’s hard for drivers to anticipate your intention if you don’t bother using turn signals or activating brake lights. Likewise, if you clam up on personal communications, others can’t tell what you’re thinking, feeling, or about to do.
- Make sure your signals are working. On your bike, you need to make sure your lights are working, highly visible, and unobstructed. And forget vanity lights. Do the same with family, friends, and coworkers by being explicit and intentional.
- Get attention. Look at any webpage and observe how many pictures, flashes, and pop-ups are necessary to engage readers. Your message needs to be carefully crafted to reach your intended audience. On a bike, the more visible you are, the more likely you are to be seen.
- Use multiple outputs. Combine hand signals with turn signals as much as possible, especially in high-risk situations like heavy traffic. Anything you can do to attract attention increases your odds of making it through that intersection safely.
- Apply communication consistently. If you’ve ever been behind someone who puts their brake lights on, then off, and then on again for no apparent reason, you know how confusing their message can be. While your actions need to match the situation, be sure that you’re using a consistent, logical approach in your communications.
- Allow plenty of response time. There are many distractions on the road. Your brake light is but one of them. Use it before the last minute so it has a chance to catch other drivers’ attention and gives them time to respond. At home or work, be considerate of others and keep them informed, particularly on the important things. Don’t wait until the last minute to update them.
- Match your body language to the message. Everyone has seen riders blissfully proceeding down the road, oblivious to their still-blinking turn signal. It’s confusing because you don’t know if they’ve forgotten to cancel it or if they’re anticipating a turn. The same can happen with interpersonal communications—especially if you’re masking a message.
- Confirm that the message was received as intended. While this is tough to do on a motorcycle, you can observe clues that others have noticed you. Still, the best adage is to assume they don’t see you and then execute your moves accordingly. In person, it’s a little easier to confirm verbal and non-verbal cues. And there’s usually less at stake.
- Act with confidence. Insecure riders are easy to peg, and I give them a wide berth. I don’t know what they’re going to do, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end. Whether you’re on the road or at the office, convey your message with confidence. And if you’re unsure, practice.
- Get to the point. You’ve only got another person’s attention for a short period of time, no matter what you’re doing. While riding, use your signals with purpose, timeliness, and appropriateness. Similarly, when communicating directly with others on important matters, don’t waste time and attention with long, drawn-out stories.
With the email inbox delete key being so easy to use, email subject lines have to grab the reader’s attention or your email won’t be opened. That same attitude carries over onto the road. People are used to being bombarded with communications and are easily distracted. They filter out all messages except those that affect them directly. Make sure they get yours.
Read more life tips in 75 Tips for Connecting Through Communication. Free Download for a limited time.