7 Life Lessons from Motorcycles on Communications
The basic communications model is simple. There’s a sender and a receiver. In between are filters. Often it’s not what we say but how we say it that carries the meaning. Responses are influenced by the verbal and non-verbal messages that get through to the receiver after they’ve been filtered.
The immediacy and potential severity of the outcome when we misinterpret or ignore signs when we ride make our motorcycles excellent models, which deliver indelible lessons.
Motorcycle: We live in a world full of distractions. Headlights, brake lights, turn signals and horn indicate our approach and intended action. Being visually conspicuous can catch the eye of other drivers and prevent a collision. Not only does this include our apparel, it also means letting others know when we’re going to turn or stop, especially if the change is sudden.
Lesson: While it’s wise to keep some things to ourselves, how we communicate with each other is a key ingredient to maintaining healthy personal and professional relationships. This can be a life-long lesson!
Signals that Work
Motorcycle: Checking turn signals, brake lights and headlights prior to going out for a ride is a good, proactive practice. It gives us greater confidence in our ability to travel safely, knowing that we can be seen.
Lesson: Confirming that the messages we intend to send out are those that are being received, goes a long way in averting misunderstandings, hurt feelings or miscued behavior. A few clarifying questions are a good idea, especially in matters of great importance.
Motorcycle: We receive signals through our senses on surface conditions, posted signs, traffic, weather and other potential hazards. We are constantly scanning our environment to prepare for the road ahead.
We are also vividly reminded of sights, sounds, smells and sensations that are part of our world that we miss when we’re traveling with a metal cage around us.
Lesson: Clearing our mind of clutter brings us to the beauty of present moment. When we ride, we are alone with our thoughts. This explains the miraculous ability of a motorcycle ride to clear our minds, inspire and rejuvenate.
Motorcycle: While we’re riding, we take in only what we need for right now and stay focused on our immediate surroundings. It’s important to focus only on those things which are salient to where we are.
Lesson: We get lots of signals but we need to listen first to the ones that are important. Distractions cloud our thought process and take precious energy. There is no point worrying about something down the road which may never materialize. Better to stay in the present and focus on current reality.
Motorcycle: Anything that impedes our senses can affect our ability to make an informed decision. This includes dirty mirrors, visors, ill-fitting gear, poor lighting, excessive noise.
Lesson: Thoughts, biases, subjectivity, cultural training, expectations can all act as filters and influence how we perceive messages. Everyone has them. Awareness is the first step to understanding and overcoming the potential barriers they can erect. Diversity, while not without its communications challenges, can be very enriching. We just have to be receptive.
Motorcycle: A motorcycle has no emotions. This objectivity makes it easier for the rider to respond appropriately. Ignoring an engine noise, failing to check tires for wear or checking oil levels can result in avoidable trouble down the road.
Lesson: The communications we receive are complicated by the filters mentioned above. Becoming more self-aware allows us to perceive communications and messages as the sender intended. Masking, ignoring or duct taping them may be a short term fix, but eventually, something will give.
Motorcycle: Mirrors reflect back to us what we can’t otherwise see: what’s coming up behind us. They also remind us of lessons we’ve learned along the way. They allow us to react appropriately in the present and prepare for future.
Lesson: Other people mirror back to us what we don’t otherwise see. They provide feedback on how our message is being perceived. Whether their response is favorable, neutral, disappointing or hostile, there’s a lesson for us, even though it may not be immediately apparent.
Motorcycles and our relationship with them, have much to teach us. As Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment describes, “The partnership of rider and machine when they join together in perfect harmony is like observing a beautiful dance that gives birth to power, strength, balance and positive change.”