WHAT IS SIGNPOSTING?
Psychologically, signposting is the art of signalling your opinions, values, intentions, actions and identity. It has the advantage of creating clearer understanding.
The term is often used in relation to writing academic essays, where a reader is encouraged to make the structure of their argument explicit to a reader. However, I often extend the term to psychological behaviour.
In my counselling work, I notice that clients vary in their ability and/or willingness to explain themselves and their actions to others.
Where signposting is not done, we can end up doing what other people want, at the expense of our own feelings and health.
BENEFITS OF SIGNPOSTING
- FUTURE-PROOFING – If others know our opinions, then we are less likely to have to go through awkward future situations where we suddenly need to share what we think. A parent who has already shared their opinion with their child, for instance, becomes a more solid inner voice for that child, and there is less likelihood of moral confusion.
- SELF-DEFENCE – If others know our values, then they are less likely to ask us to do something against those values. This extends to taste – if others know what we like and dislike, then they are less likely to foist on us what we don’t like.
- ENLISTING SUPPORT – If others know our intentions, then they can help us with support and resources. Many friends will want to help, and they can only do it if they know what we want to do next.
- PROTECTIVE PUBLICITY – If others know our actions, then it saves them using their imagination to make up stories. At work, if we clearly inform others what we have done, then no one can accuse us of not doing anything. It also stops people unknowingly frustrating our actions by doing something that gets in the way of what we are trying to do.
- MAKING SPACE IN SOCIETY – If others know our identity, then they are less likely to accidentally disrespect us by talking badly of the things we stand for. Also, being open about our identity means that society will make space for us.
In short, psychologically, signposting avoids future conflict, keeps our environment pleasant, enlists support and cooperation, and makes space in society for ourselves, and for the people and things we stand for.
Today, I will try to be brave about signalling my opinions, values, intentions, actions and identity. I will try not to be shy, risk-averse, or avoidant.
I will be clear about where I stand. Yes I’ll be flexible, but at the same time, I will be clear about who I am and where I come from.
I will be diplomatic, but I will let myself express my character and values.
And, of course, I will encourage others to signpost for themselves too, to that they don’t get overlooked. It’s two-way.