I ride my bike most mornings, around the streets in my neighborhood.
Often when I’m riding there are people on the sidewalks, walking their dogs, jogging, or walking, or out mowing their lawn. When I was a child I learned how to use hand signals for driving, and like any responsible cyclist, I use them on my bike. Even when there are no cars around me, I still make the habit of using them.
It’s always interesting when I get to a right hand turn, bend my arm to signal, and someone waves at me.
I usually say hi to anyone I meet anyway, but when I’m turning, it’s important for me to signal my intent. When they realize I was doing that, I imagine they feel kind of silly. Who among us hasn’t seen someone wave from afar and we suppose they must be waving at us - so we wave back, only to realize seconds later they were waving at someone behind us. It happens.
Much like my signaling to turn might be interpreted as a gesture of friendliness, sometimes our intent in life is misunderstood. If someone perceives me to be friendly and they wave at me, they aren’t incorrect in thinking so, it’s just the context of my action that caused the confusion. Not a big deal in this case of course. But for the bigger things in life, unclear communication really can be a big deal. If, for example, I indicated an intent to turn right but I actually turn left in front of a car it could have devastating results.
Our intentions, while they may be honorable or well-placed, really mean very little. That’s because there are two things we have to account for that we sometimes overlook.
1. The first thing to consider is that our intentions are only as good as our actions. Deciding to do something, or intending to do it, is not the same as actually doing it. If I intend to do something, and I say that I will but I don’t, then you are less likely to believe me the next time I communicate my intent. That’s why we have that saying that “actions speak louder than words”. It’s easy to say that when we consider how others treat us, but what about how we treat ourselves?
How closely do your actions meet your own intentions for yourself? (Health, family, work, fun, etc.)
2. The second factor is that our intentions can be perceived differently than we want them to be. If the drivers on the street don’t know what my hand signals mean then it can confuse them, or even cause an accident. We each, as individuals, have our own language around how we manage our emotions and stress. That language is only as good as the understanding of it among those around me.
Understanding ourselves and others can bring a vast amount of harmony to our lives when we use that information to adjust our communication to meet others where they are.
How well do you understand people, including yourself?
If I were to coach you we would start with an exercise called the Wheel of Life, where you would assess your level of satisfaction in the areas you deem important in your life and your intent to grow. I would also suggest a DISC Personality assessment to help you understand yourself and better interact with others. And then I would ask questions, lots of questions, to help you move from here to where you want to be. We would examine your intentions and your actions. You would become more aware of who you are.
One step you can start today is to get curious - start asking yourself some questions like the ones above.