9 Signals That Communicate Intention

With the plethora of sensory inputs in the world today, the ability to communicate intentions explicitly is vital if you expect to be seen, heard and most importantly understood.

Checking your motorcycle’s turn signals, brake lights and headlights prior to going out for a ride is a wise practice. It gives you greater confidence in your ability to travel safely, knowing you can be seen. After all, there’s not a lot of room for error.

SignalsIn life, asking a few clarifying questions confirms the messages you intend to send out is what was received.

Such action goes a long way in averting misunderstandings, hurt feelings or miscued behavior.


9 Signals That Communicate Intention


  1. Brake lights on. While this signals you’re slowing down or stopping, it’s still only one indication. Still, it tells those coming up behind you to adjust their speed accordingly. Recognizing you can slow down faster than most vehicles, confirm others on the road have seen you by checking your mirrors and over your shoulders. The ability to sense danger and react appropriately can save your life.


  1. Brake lights off. You’re about to accelerate. At least that’s the message. But it can be misinterpreted when you’ve come to a stop and become complacent and remove your hand/foot from the brake. You may be simply resting,  but all the driver behind you sees is the brake light come off. He figures you’re moving off and does the same, bumping into you. Be clear on your intentions. It helps avoid misunderstandings.


  1. Turn signals. Used when you’re about to pull out to pass, change lanes, pull off onto the shoulder, take an exit ramp or turn onto a side street, turn signals indicate a change in direction. Life changes are a regular occurrence.  Giving others advance notice of what we’re doing allows them to lend support, avoids catching them off-guard and prevents conflict.


  1. Pointing. Applicable to group riding, using your hand or foot to point to road hazards communicates the danger to others who are following, giving them an opportunity to respond proactively. Alerting others to pitfalls we have dealt with can prevent others from having to go through the same experience.  But you can only advise. Accept that they need to be watching and receptive, and that their response is up to them.


  1. High visibility gear. Confidence and courage in walking your road gets your message across.  You don’t have to be loud, just be You!  You can have the highest intentions, skills and the best resources, but if you try and blend in with the crowd, you’re ineffective.


  1. Horn. Sometimes you need to be loud to attract attention. It not only keeps you safe, but reminds others around you to pay attention.


  1. Shoulder checks. Wise is the rider that does regular shoulder checks.  Not only does it alert you to potential hazards, your movement wakes up the driver behind you and alerts them that something is changing.


  1. Hand signals. This can be anything from a greeting, to a warning to give you your space or reinforcing your turn signal’s message of a change in direction. Hands touch, gesture and show kindness. They communicate volumes.


  1. Headlight flash.  While it can mean “cops ahead,” it’s also a courtesy, giving your approval for a driver to turn in front of you. For obvious reasons, it’s very important that this is clearly understood. The higher the potential consequences of being misunderstood, the greater the need to make sure your intentions are clear.


Whether you know it or not, you give signals all the time. Clear, explicit messages backed up with clarifying behavior confirm your intentions and make your journey that much more enjoyable.


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photo credit: @optikalblitz via photopin cc


Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

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