Signal Before You Turn


Sudden changes without adequate forewarning can be jarring for people. Providing notification of what is to come can ensure a smoother transition for them and for you.

Sometimes I think that my fellow commuters are out to kill me. Other times I know that they are! This morning I was almost hit by a bus.

The bus driver’s scowl contrasted sharply with the large yellow happy face painted on the side of the door beneath his window. I am guessing that he was late in the delivery of the dozen or so adolescents being tossed about in the rear of the bus as he frantically maneuvered through traffic.

Luckily, I had noticed his approach in my rear view mirror. Alerted by car horns and foul language, I had glanced over to witness his path of carnage and I moved to the side of the road. Wildly gesticulating with a single-finger gesture, he zoomed past with a belch of black smoke.

If I had not been alerted by fellow commuters I would have been taken completely by surprise, because there were no other signals. I would not have seen the bus driver’s approach and would not have been able to anticipate his moves. The result could have been disastrous. As it turned out, my car and I came out of the altercation without a scratch, but I would not say that I have warm feelings for the bus driver.

When interacting with others, it is important to remember to signal any changes to come, so that they will have time to respond appropriately. This is especially true for time and/or resource-intensive projects, or when explaining difficult concepts.

People need time to contemplate their role in the plan and to prepare for time and resource demands. By signaling ahead, you are giving them the opportunity to align their priorities with yours, and you are allowing for opportunities of collaboration and synergy.

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better. “

King Whitney Jr.

It is a fact of life in large metropolitan areas that traffic can be hairy at times. However, driving defensively and using your signals to announce your intentions will generally ensure a safe commute. Signaling your intentions in the workplace can have similar results.

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.

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