At first glance, you may think this Tip has something to do with driving a car. That is not what this Tip is about at all! Nevertheless, I would agree that it is a good idea to use your turn signal when driving a car. It is certainly an act of courtesy to let other people know your intentions. (I have been reminded by several people who have ridden in a vehicle with me to use my turn signal more often!) So, I am not suggesting that we should not use our turn signals. However, I think the “turn signal principle” is more valuable in life than it is in driving a vehicle! Maybe a couple of examples would help!
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone when suddenly his or her mood changed or the tone of the conversation took an unexpected turn that caught you off guard? For example, have you ever been talking with someone in a lighthearted conversation and suddenly that person got serious? Or, have you ever been talking to someone about a serious subject, and then suddenly that person shifts the conversation to a lighthearted topic or suddenly cracks a joke? When someone suddenly shifts the conversation, does it take you a little while to make the adjustment? The truth of the matter is that we have all been guilty of switching the tone of a conversation from lighthearted to serious or from serious to lighthearted without giving other people warning. It oftentimes “stings” when you are on the receiving end of it; therefore, we should be more careful not to do it to others.
Recently as I was talking to an individual, he told me about a discussion he had experienced with one of his friends. He told me that they were in the midst of having a “surface” conversation. Suddenly his friend looked at him and said, “Well, I can tell you are not interested in what we are talking about at all!” My friend said to me, “It would have been nice if he had given me a signal to say, ‘I would like to move this conversation from a surface conversation to a deeper conversation. Would that be okay with you?’” He explained that those words would have at least given him a moment’s notice to recognize they were taking a different turn in the conversation. This would have given my friend the opportunity to connect with his friend in a more appropriate manner. He said, “A turn signal would have been very helpful!”
Although my friend meant this in a figurative sense, it gave me a good point of reference to understand the principle I am referring to in this Tip. Ever since my friend made this comment to me, I have been a little more careful to try to be sure that the people I am talking to know where I am coming from and which direction, I am turning the conversation.
Because communication is such a complex matter, I would suggest that all of us learn to give better signals when we are having conversations with people. For example, if you are focused on a high-priority project, it might be a good idea to let everyone else know the important priority the project is to you. Otherwise, you may be the only one looking at it in a serious manner while others think it is just “chit-chat”.
Although I do not think that we need to constantly let everyone know every minor thought that is going through our mind, I do believe it is valuable to alert people when you are “changing lanes” (moving from one tone of conversation to another).
Whether in personal conversation, business relationships or driving, it is important to give the right “signals.” Spend some time this week noticing how conversations shift from one topic to another. I was well into my 50’s before I really learned how to listen. I still have to work at it on a daily basis. I am a talker, not a listener. However, I have discovered most people prefer you to be a listener. So, if I am going to grow in different areas of my life, then listening is what I choose to do! They say the best salespeople in the world have mastered the art of listening not talking. If that is true, then is it any wonder why most people have financial challenges?!
It reminds me of the story of the two girls who were roommates, and both came home from a date and discussed their evening together. One girl said, “I met the most interesting guy tonight. He told me all about his life and his new job and his career path. I learned about his goals and his plans for the future. He was amazing! How was your date?” The other girl said, “I don’t know anything about the guy I had a date with tonight. All he wanted to know was what I enjoyed for dinner, and where I grew up and all about my life and my dreams and my goals. It seemed like all he cared about was me. I think I am in love!”
This week, listen carefully to the tone of the conversation and see if you can give better turn signals as you are speaking. You cannot control what others do, but you can control your part, which will make you a better communicator. And who knows – it may make you a better driver as well!
Tip: When you are getting ready to make a turn, be sure and use a turn signal!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm