What Turn Signals Teach Us About Communicating

I have a major pet peeve to confess. I absolutely cannot stand drivers who turn or change lanes without using their turn signals. Does this make me seem picky? Sure. Do I use mine 100% of the time? No, but certainly not by choice; sometimes I just forget. But 98% of the time I turn on that blinker before I make a move.

This annoys me for a few reasons. First, to me, it seems a bit self-centered. It’s the law, so when someone doesn’t signal their turn or lane change, it’s as if the driver said, “I’m too important to follow the rules.”.

The other reason it bothers be is because it endangers everyone on the road. Turning without telling the other drivers where you are going is a great way to get hit—or be hit. And I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like car accidents. Call me crazy, but that’s how I am.

Ultimately, it comes down to communication. Turn signals are there to help us tell other drivers what we plan to do. When we fail to signal, we create friction. And friction leads to problems.

Turn signals can teach us a lot about the way we communicate with people. And when we understand the importance of communicating clearly, much of the friction in our lives can vanish. Here are some pointers, inspired by the rules of the road.

Declare Your Intent
When you begin a conversation, especially a non-verbal one such as through email, it is important to clearly state your point and make sure it is understood. Our words don’t always fully represent our message, as counter-intuitive as the sounds. It is important to view our message from the viewpoint of the listener.

There is no way for people to listen incorrectly. If our listener misinterprets, it is because we communicated in a way that needed interpreting (therefore making room for mistakes and misinterpretations) rather than clearly. chose your words carefully. Intentionally.

Look Out For Others
Part of the process of using a turn signal is to glance toward the space we hope to move our vehicle into. No one likes auto accidents, so this step prevents collisions. As people, making choices and communicating messages, we need to glance around for potential accidents.

Avoid offensive language (language that attacks), and handle words like one would handle a gun collection. Words can hurt people. Or damage relationships. And when your business depends on maintaining strong relationships with clients, you need to manage your words with the vigilance of a fire arms safety instructor.

Other People Are Driving Too
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has flipped on his turn signal, glanced back to see if the way was clear, only to find someone else merging into the lane we were about to switch to. Unless you drive at 2AM, we are rarely the only driver on the road, so it is important to remember to make way for others.

Conversations are never one-way; those are called speeches. So when we communicate with another person we need to remember that they have things to say too. And their message is just as important. So make way for other drivers. And speakers.

Reckless driving leads to collisions and broken cards. And reckless communication can do the same to our relationships, personal and professional. Take a lesson from the world of driving today and treat the things you say, and how you say them, with the same care you use on the road. You’ll encounter less friction. And that will result in stronger partnerships, friendships and business interactions.