You need to be clear.

It was not until writing this that I finally searched for the official name of the car part that you reach for when making left or right turns. My sister and I have had a ridiculous number of conversations about the correct name and the British vs. American vs. Nigerian name for it. While these are not exclusive to any particular group, Nigerians generally stick to “trafficator,” Americans, “blinker,” and the British, “indicator.” Well, I am here to announce that there is no one name for it! They are all correct. Interestingly, the term “trafficators” which has often received the heat is actually the formal name as well as “flippers.” In technical speaks, it is called a turn signal or direction-indicator (lever). Let’s be real, no one is adding that to their vocabulary but the more you know, folks. Ironically, the other definition for “blinker” describes a flap that stops a horse from seeing sideways (i.e a blinder). I am certainly not referring to that today. In fact, quite the opposite. But I am not writing to lecture you on the literature of car parts or horseback riding paraphernalia. On the contrary, I have come with one request- be clear.

One of my biggest pet peeves is drivers who do not indicate when they are turning off the road or changing lanes. Picture this, you’re driving behind a car and by every indication (or lack thereof), you think that the driver is headed straight ahead when all of a sudden, they slow down or slam their brakes, AND turn. No indication, no blinking, no trafficating. No heads-up whatsoever. The utter frustration! I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out why I find this so upsetting. Here’s what I’ve come up with;

  • They have left me little to no time to slow down at an appropriate pace
  • They endanger themselves, me, and the driver(s) behind me. I could run into them if I do not slow down or stop in time. The person behind me could run into me because I have stopped abruptly and they, just like me, had no time to slow down either- see the chain reaction?
  • By traffic laws, it is automatically assumed that I am at fault if I run into them simply because I am the driver behind. An omission on their part ends up bearing consequences for me
  • Finally, for the most part, I am a rule-follower who likes others to follow the rules as well. Can you tell that I am an Enneagram 1? (If you know nothing about the enneagram test, here’s a link to a free version. Feel free to hop on Google, read more and find other free tests or be a baller and pay for the more in-depth test).

At this point, you get the gist- I like to be informed. I want to know that if you are not going straight, you are turning left or right, and I want to know ahead of time. This grievance has spilled into other areas of my life. I am *very* slowly learning to be more receptive of last-minute changes in my personal life because it does not come naturally to me. More than anyone else, my partner has witnessed me lose my head because we made plans, something changed along the way, and even when there is more than enough time to update me about the change in plans, I don’t find out until I reach out to see if we are still on. Much like my annoyance with drivers who turn without indicating, the absence of a heads-up gets to me more than the cancelled or rescheduled event. I like to know. Who doesn’t? Tell me that you wouldn’t prefer knowing exactly what that “It’s fine” text message really means. That it’s crystal clear if it really is fine or it isn’t fine but they just aren’t saying. All of you “I like mystery” people, I am praying for you because you like extra work (lol). All jokes aside, there is a difference between laying all your cards on the table and offering clarity. Sure, they can happen simultaneously and they can also exist independently but they should not be confused with each other.

I recognize that you may not share my thoughts on this and that’s fine. With the variety of personalities and lifestyles that we have, I know that someone’s ambiguity or omission of important details may not bother you as much as it bothers me. However, I hope we can agree that in general, it is respectful to a person, their time, and effort that you don’t beat around the bush or be evasive when you need to be direct. This covers a broad range of things, from your intention/the purpose of the interaction to what you expect from them, your conversation or relationship with them. I imagine that it is for this reason that meetings have agendas and DTR (defining the relationship) conversations exist. If the plan, intention, or expectation changes over time, that is totally fine too, as long as it is being communicated. In my family, when we start sweet-talking and teasing my mum in an unusual manner, she often jokes in return, “What do you want?” Indirectly, she is asking, “WHY are you sweet-talking me?” (your intention) and more directly, she wants to know what you want from her (your expectation).

…you honour a person’s time and effort when you provide them clarity.

Bat’sé

This is applicable across the board. After attending everything from kindergarten to high school in Nigeria, trust me, I was accustomed to not having rubrics that clearly stated how my work would be assessed. We typically received a verbal recitation of what our teachers expected from us on any given assessment. Other than the first test with a new teacher where no one ever knows what to expect, we almost always had some form of loose guidance. And if we didn’t, there was no fuss because it simply wasn’t expected.

Upon starting university in the U.S., I quickly learnt that the average American student thrives on clear expectations and rubrics. I thought, “What a concept! I could get used to this.” Haha the sequential learner in me was THRIVING, that is until I encountered this professor. They gave us a rubric quite alright but when our grades came back in, it made no sense to the majority of the class. We believed that to a reasonable extent, we met the expectations outlined by the rubric yet our grades did not reflect that AT ALL. I was disappointed in myself when I saw my grade. I knew how much work had gone into writing this paper so while I was confused, I was mostly disappointed because clearly, my work was not good enough, I thought. In the next class, it was the elephant in the room so we “elicited feedback” on why most of us performed poorly on the paper. If you stuck your tongue out, you could taste the tension and frustration in the classroom as she explained her expectations to us AFTER we had already written the paper. To us, her explanation came down to, “Although you spent a lot of time researching and writing this paper based on what I initially told you I wanted you to do, you didn’t do well because you did not do things that I expected you to do but did not tell you.” You can see why this sounded unfair and made us feel like we had wasted our time, right? Now, I was no longer disappointed in myself for not doing a good enough job, I was now disappointed that I hadn’t know better. In hindsight, it sounds ridiculous because I COULDN’T have known better. I can’t read minds and if she did not clearly communicate things to us, I couldn’t beat myself up for not knowing. Needless to say, we made sure to ask many clarifying questions about the next assignment, dare I say, too many questions. We were not taking ambiguity at the expense of our grades again.

Now that all of that is said and done, the takeaway is simple, you honour a person’s time and effort when you provide them clarity. It is appreciated in almost every space. You’re in the market for a car and know exactly what you want? Give the dealer/salesperson those specifications! You’re yet to figure out exactly what you want but you know what you don’t want? Lead with that! You’re not quite ready to date someone but would still like to spend time with them and know more about them? Turn on your blinkers! You’re calling a friend in the middle of a crisis and you don’t want their opinion or advice, you just want them to listen? Honour their time and be clear. Just because you have explicitly communicated your intentions or expectations does not always mean that they will be received well or met, but at least, you give the other party some time to prepare for your turn.

Agree or disagree? Let chat in the comments!.

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