Are You an Alligator?

Are You an Alligator?

“He’s an alligator: all mouth, no ears.”

I heard that expression recently and I thought it was so visual and so dead-on in the description of a person we were discussing. It refers to somebody that is so focused on speaking, that they seldom listen. I bet you deal with people like this all the time – maybe at work? Maybe at home?

Or worse, are you an alligator?

Technology and social media have given us great channels for sharing ideas and furthering our knowledge base on every subject imaginable. Yet, so many people seem to use it as a megaphone instead of a listening device. Whenever I start a dialogue with someone about the usefulness of something like Twitter, they usually say “how can I use it to get my message out?” I mean, sure, social media is great for that. But, it’s also great for listening to what people have to say about you and your brand. Still, so many people feel like they have to control the message.

Sometimes I run into people that just don’t care about what others have to say. They see social media as a pedestal and they’re only interested in one-way communication. There’s a certain social media figure that has risen to micro-celebrity over the last couple of years. He has a book out and he’s appeared on CNN and other mainstream media outlets. He uses all the buzzwords like “engagement” and “conversation,” but at the end of the day, all the evidence I see in his use of social media points to him being a big fat alligator: all talk, no ears.

We’ve all seen evidence of the alligator mentality in our political system right now. It isn’t about solving problems and doing the work of the people, it’s about posturing and making sure you slip in the right soundbite right along party lines. There’s very little listening going on.

Corporate America is another place this runs rampant. So many companies are unwilling or unable to listen more and talk less – or, as Chris Brogan calls it “grow bigger ears.” One company that continues to surprise me in a positive way is Dominos Pizza. You may remember they launched their own pre-emptive strike on their subpar pizza last year. They continue to be proactive and encourage conversation about their brand and ways they can do better.

Besides the Everglades, where do you see alligators? I’d love to get your perspective in the comments.