Safety instructions

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. You are driving on the Western by-pass around Newcastle in busy traffic. You find yourself getting closer and closer to a large lorry travelling a little more slowly in front of you. As you draw up behind it travelling at about 50 mph you see the following sentence written on the solid steel bumper in front of you:

Your skid stops here!

What runs through your mind as you imagine this?

Most large vehicles in this country have rather anodyne announcements on their backs along the lines of ‘Keep Your Distance’. I’m not sure how well they work. Not many people take well to being told what to do, and the words don’t bring much to mind.

“Your skid stops here” is in a class of it’s own. When I read those words I went off into a little movie of how things might turn out if a skid ended up ‘there’ – it wasn’t a pretty thought. In fact it was very unpleasant. I pulled back a little, nobody told me to, no-one suggested it. All of a sudden it seemed like a very good idea that I should be at a safe distance.

I think this little message is an excellent example of NLP in action, using carefully chosen words to get the desired outcome. It’s a brief invitation to consider the (negative) consequences of a certain course of action. I suspect it’s much more effective than bland advice or warnings. I don’t know how well this works, I’m sure there isn’t statistical evidence that this message helps drivers keep their distance I wouldn’t be at all suprised if it did.

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