Don’t miss the chameleon!

Chameleon on finger

Did I tell you about the video of the lizard thingie I saw a couple of weeks ago? OK – let me tell you about the lizard thingie.

A friend posted a video that was greeted by many, “Wow!” “Cool!” and “Amazing!” comments. It featured a lizard thingie crawling on a bench, and someone putting a pair of sunglasses in front of it. When the lizard thingie grabbed a hold of the sunglasses, I thought, “The lizard thingie is going to put the sunnies on!”

But it didn’t. It just crawled right over them. Another pair of sunglasses was put in front of the lizard thingie, and when it grabbed them I thought, “This is it!” But it wasn’t it. It just crawled over the top again. Another pair of sunnies, same thing again. Not wow, cool, or amazing at all. It wasn’t until the lizard thingie was on top of both a pair of pink and blue sunglasses that I realised that THE LIZARD THINGIE WAS ALSO PINK AND BLUE. It wasn’t just any lizard thingie – it was a chameleon. Each pair of sunglasses was a different colour, and the chameleon changed colours every time it crawled over each one.

I had missed the whole thing. Lucky it was a video, and I could start watching again from the beginning.

Real life doesn’t afford us the same luxury.

Because everything I do comes back, one way or another, to communication, I tend to concentrate on the messages we send out, to the world or to ourselves. But the cycle of communication includes something I don’t often talk about: listening.

Expectations are the enemy of effective communication, and particularly so while listening. Expectations make you miss the chameleon, even when the chameleon is flashing neon bright.

There are many types of expectations, including stereotypes, judgement, unconscious bias, a different agenda to the speaker’s, subjectivity, and – like me – deciding beforehand what the whole thing is really all about.

Don’t miss the chameleon! Get rid of expectations. Listen with an open, undistracted mind. When you do, you’ll find that not only will you get the message clearly, but whoever you are listening to will most likely let you flash brilliant colours of your own.


Photo credit: © vaeenma via DepositPhotos