I’ve been in England recently giving some workshops and I’ve been travelling to some new and unfamiliar places. On my journeys I’ve had a few experiences which have brought home to me how even the clearest of messages can become obscured or hard to interpret. On one occasion a road sign had been twisted round so that it was pointing the wrong way. Without realising I followed it and inevitably ended up lost and way off route. It took me a while before I realised. When I got back to the point where I had been misdirected some highway workers were actually at the junction returning the sign to its proper alignment. I opened the window and shared with them how I’d just got lost and how glad I was that they were fixing the sign. I was able to laugh about it and continue on my way. The trees, nourished by a perfect balance of sun and rain, have been in full leaf. On two occasions road signs have been obscured by the summers growth so that they were impossible to read while driving.
It struck me that road signs are normally clear and easy to understand in their messages. As long as we can see them directly, from the right angle and without obfuscation, then their purpose requires no interpretation. It’s plain as can be. But as soon as anything gets in the way of the sign, or if the sign is misaligned then the message is not just hard to read but it can also cause great confusion.
We all have to get messages across to other people. It may be in our day to day inter-personal and professional relationships, in a presentation, a key note speech, a team briefing or even asking a waiter to make our order a little more bespoke than the menu allows ! Our effectiveness in doing this is dictated not only by our ability to clear away our own overgrowth which stand between our message and our audience but also to keep our focus pointing in the right direction.
In this respect the message we have to deliver is not so different from a road sign. If we aren’t clear then nor can our message be. It has been interesting to reflect on this. I think one of the greatest joys in my work is that I can see workshop attendees taking the tools and exercises they are given and experiencing for themselves the empowerment of their own hidden or untapped abilities. The confidence of having techniques to rely on makes their message so much easier to deliver, to be received and to be understood.
Just as the road signs guide us on our route so the ability to communicate confidently and clearly is our biggest aid on our journey through life.