The thing I recall most about starting school is my mother’s caution not to talk unless the teacher said to. Being quiet so people could study, so the teacher could teach, was a big thing, and although there were times when the teacher had to tell some of the more boisterous kids to sit down and be quiet, or even put them in a corner facing the wall, mostly the classroom was quiet unless a lesson was in progress. I won’t say I never got caught whispering, or passing a note, but when I did, the negative attention was enough to line me out for quite a while. I don’t know what classrooms are like today, but from the way people act in public I’m guessing the quiet rule has at least relaxed, if not disappeared.
Recently, I attended a music program. In spite of the excellent sound system and the fact that I was sitting within ten feet of the performer, it was hard to hear because people in the other end of the room were chattering and moving around. Eventually, one of the entertainers stopped and waited until the room settled down. Then the gentleman said quietly, “You know, it’s hard enough to do this when people are listening.” After that, people seemed to get the message somewhat, but they didn’t all sit down and pay attention.
Every entertainer has experienced this. Playing at a bar, county fair, outdoor event, or some place where folks are coming and going, you just know how it will go and try not to take it personally. Hopefully, you didn’t agree to do it without being paid and can tell yourself that the money is the same either way, but at the event mentioned above, the performers had traveled across several states and were doing the show for free.
A friend makes his living as a musician, but during his former life in the corporate world, one of his duties was to wine and dine visiting clients. They generally wanted to go to a strip club, which was the last place Andy wanted to go, but he was getting paid to be there. One night, when the girl on stage was performing and most people in the room were drinking and carrying on conversations (gee that’s not a venue I’m familiar with, but I assumed people went to watch. Maybe they are, but pretend not to?) Andy began to compare it to his ventures into music where the same inattention often prevailed. “The girl was up there giving all she had to offer and very few appreciated her talent. It’s the same with any entertainer, our offering is discounted or devalued when people ignore it.” Andy wrote a song about that on his napkin and tells the background story when he sings it.
Most of us have sat in a movie near someone who insisted in carrying on a conversation with a companion. I feel like telling the chatterbox that this is not a sporting event where one is expected to cheer and visit with people around you. Often, during a keynote presentation at conferences, audience members chat, wander around, or leave the room. Interestingly, people at a church service seem able to keep quiet for the duration and, in a waiting room, it’s like pulling teeth to get the person next to you to make small talk.
You probably have a friend or family member who interrupts, talks over you and hogs the conversation. Irritating, to say the least, and you come away feeling disrespected. Most of all, most of us just want to be heard, and the highest compliment we can pay them is to listen.