Traffic in big cities is usually very aggressive and often congested. On a recent trip to New York, I noticed taxi drivers often honk when there is congestion but where the honk has no apparent target. That is, no clear obstacle that could move and solve the congestion.
It made me wonder if the drivers are not necessarily honking to get traffic moving but, instead, to make sure the passengers still feel there is a sense of urgency, especially since that meter is running.
After all, a driver that looks like he is out for a leisurely drive while the meter is running is far less likely to get a tip and may even get complaints. But a driver working to move along quickly… now there is someone worthy of a tip, right?
So it appears to me that a honk may sound the same but really be for two different audiences, each with a different message. The honk may say, “Hey, get out of my way!” or it may say “See, I’m working hard for you.” Sometimes the honk does both at the same time!
One other thing I noticed was that while taxis may honk periodically, they generally don’t honk non-stop. A short occasional honk has a message that is heard by others. But almost endless “honk, honk, honk” is actually just an annoyance with no real message except frustration (or maybe even stupidity?). And it soon loses whatever message of value it was supposed to convey.
So what does this have to do with better communication? Consider that we all “honk” (i.e., have messages). And our “honks” may sound the same but can serve more than one audience with a different intent. Plus, be mindful that you should not “honk” your message endlessly and continually. Those “honks” really don’t produce desired results.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly email@example.com.
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