The basic communications model is simple. There’s a sender and a receiver. In between are filters. Often it’s not what you say but how you 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.
7 Tips from Motorcycles for Effective Communication Skills
- Articulate your intention. You live in a world full of distractions. Headlights, brake lights, turn signals and horn indicate your approach and intended action. Being visually conspicuous can catch the eye of other drivers and prevent a collision. Not only does this include your apparel, it also means letting others know when you’re going to turn or stop, especially if the change is sudden.While it’s wise to keep some things in life to yourself, how you communicate with others is a key ingredient to maintaining healthy personal and professional relationships. This can be a life-long lesson!
- Make sure your signals are working. Checking turn signals, brake lights and headlights prior to going out for a ride is a healthy, proactive practice. Knowing you can be seen gives you greater confidence in your ability to travel and arrive safely.Confirming that the messages you intend to send out are those that are being received, goes a long way in averting misunderstandings, hurt feelings or miscued behavior. Asking a few clarifying questions are a good habit, especially in matters of great importance.
- Practice mindfulness. Riders receive signals through their senses on surface conditions, posted signs, traffic, weather and other potential hazards. They’re constantly scanning your environment to prepare for the road ahead.In life, you are vividly reminded of sights, sounds, smells and sensations that are part of the world that you miss when you’re traveling with a metal cage around you. Clearing your mind of clutter brings you to the beauty of present moment. When you ride, you are alone with your thoughts. This explains the miraculous ability of a motorcycle ride to clear your minds, inspire and rejuvenate.
- Prioritize your inputs. While riding, you take in only what you need for right now and stay focused on your immediate surroundings. It’s a survival skill. You get lots of signals but you need to listen first to the ones that are important.Distractions cloud your 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.
- Beware of filters. Anything that impedes your senses can affect your ability to make an informed decision. This includes dirty mirrors, visors, ill-fitting gear, poor lighting, excessive noise.Thoughts, biases, subjectivity, cultural training, expectations can all act as filters and influence how you 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. You just have to be receptive.
- Be authentic. 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.The communications you receive are complicated by the filters mentioned above. Becoming more self-aware allows you 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.
- Check your mirrors. Mirrors reflect what you can’t otherwise see: what’s coming up behind you. They also remind you of lessons you’ve learned along the way. They allow you to react appropriately in the present and prepare for future.In life, other people mirror back to you what you don’t otherwise see. They provide feedback on how your message is being perceived. Whether their response is favorable, neutral, disappointing or hostile, there’s a lesson for you, even though it may not be immediately apparent.
Motorcycles and your relationship with them, have much to teach you. 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.”
The same is true, no matter what vehicle you choose to journey through life on.