10 Communications Filters to Know for Your Safety
by Liz Jansen
Anything that interferes with the way you send or receive messages affects your ability to make an informed decision. On a motorcycle, this includes dirty mirrors, visors, ill-fitting gear, poor lighting, and excessive noise.
Thoughts, biases, subjectivity, cultural training, and expectations all act as filters and influence how you encode and decode messages. Everyone has them. Whether you like it or not, you’re always judging and responding based on a series of preconceptions.
- Health. Motorcycle engines depend on accurate information from sensors to regulate engine performance, emissions, and other vital functions. Potential negative outcomes from faulty information include performance issues, increased fuel consumption, and emission failures. Likewise, weakened physical, emotional, or mental health affects how you perceive messages. Issues can appear disproportionately large and insurmountable when you’re not feeling well.
- Skills. Your ability to process information on a motorcycle is greatly influenced by your skill level. If you’re preoccupied with learning how to coordinate the throttle and clutch to shift gears, you’re less likely to be aware of the driver who’s on your tail. In life, as in riding, increasing your proficiency increases the magnitude and accuracy with which you process inputs.
- Self-awareness. Understanding and accepting your skill level keeps you from putting yourself on a motorcycle or in a situation that’s beyond your current capacity to manage safely. Recognizing your beliefs and emotions, and how they affect your thoughts and behaviors, reduces the potential for communication mix-ups.
- Confidence. While self-confidence is a good and necessary attribute, it can also be an impediment. Whether on a motorcycle or on life’s Road, confidence is no replacement for skill. It invokes a false sense of security, increasing the risk of a foul-up.
- Information overload. One can only process so many inputs at once. As a rider, even once your skills are honed and you can rely more on muscle memory, you still need to consider inputs from things such as traffic, weather, road signs, noise, and lights. Off the motorcycle, being bombarded with excessive demands from work, family, or volunteer activities can put you over the threshold beyond which you can’t process information.
- Protective gear. I’m a strong advocate of ATGATT—All The Gear, All The Time. However, as much as it’s designed to protect you, gear that doesn’t fit properly or is uncomfortable can create hazards of its own. Protective gear in life takes the form of defense mechanisms—like denial, rationalization, or projection—and can create barriers to communication.
- Worry. It’s wise to have a healthy sense of fear while riding a motorcycle. However, if taken to excess, it changes your focus, potentially blocking critical safety inputs. For example, you may be so preoccupied with how you’re going to negotiate a curve that you miss seeing the gravel that’s been kicked up into your path. Most of the time, all worry does is sap your energy and prevent you from appreciating the reality of the present moment.
- Distractions. With the barrage of visual and auditory inputs in your world, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus. On a motorcycle, this could affect your safety. On your life’s Road, it could divert you from achieving your goals.
- Frame of reference. You can perceive the same situation very differently depending on external influences. On a warm, sunny, blue-sky day, the universe is in order and everything seems good. When it’s cold, dark, or rainy, everything seems black. A wise person will do a reality check to confirm the facts before acting.
- Expectations. If you expect to have a wonderful experience, you will, no matter if you’re on your motorcycle, bicycle, or walking down your life’s path.
All of the communications filters above can affect your ability to communicate effectively with others and can result in upsets—whether on your motorcycle or navigating at work or home. Recognizing that these filters exist is the necessary first step to reducing their effect.
Read more life tips in 75 Tips for Connecting Through Communication. Free Download for a limited time.