It seems like every audience I speak to has one.
A grumpy dude with his arms folded and a face that looks like it was turned to stone by a quick glance at Medusa.
Early in my career, it used to bug the heck out of me. I’d get all self-conscious. I’d wonder: Does he think I’m too young? Does he think my jokes stink? Is he the dude I saw last night on America’s Most Wanted?
It was quite tempting to either 1) question my own skills and delivery as a speaker, or b) call him names in my head. (Jerkbutt was among my favorites and most family-friendly.)
Most of the time I’d do both.
I eventually decided to heed the advice given to me by so many more experienced speakers. Even though I’m what some might call a “motivational” speaker, I can’t really motivate anybody to do anything. No one can.
If we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or even laugh, we have to be open to it. I like to think that I provide a path and a little bit of insight and encouragement for people who are ready.
That being said, I still notice Mr. Stoneface. He was in my audience last week, in fact. Instead of worrying about why he didn’t seem very captivated by my presentation, I decided not to judge him or, more importantly, myself.
I forgot about him, and focused on the people who were more attentive. I spent 90 minutes doing my thing, and at the very end of the program, as I showed the video of Kim and me getting fresh with some giraffes, I noticed him.
He was laughing.
And that made my December. I was reminded of times when other seemingly guarded and uninterested men have come up to me after my program to let me know how much they enjoyed and appreciated what I had to say. Believe it or not, some of the people who’ve been impacted the most are the very same people who, during the presentation, seem like they’d rather be shaving rabid goats with a broken razor.
For some reason, those moments are hard to remember when you’re the recipient of a blank gaze from a face of stone.
This holiday season, you’re bound to encounter your own jerkbutts. Maybe they’ll ignore your friendly greeting. Maybe they’ll appear to be uninterested in what you have to say. Maybe they’ll snap at you for no good reason.
One thing I’ve learned is that it probably has nothing to do with you. Don’t let their gloominess get you down. You never know what’s going on in their world.
Maybe they just lost their job.
Maybe they’re tired from working overtime to pay for insurance.
Maybe their dog just died.
Don’t take it personally and don’t let it get you down. Turn the other cheek. Be yourself and do your thing.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll make their day and not even know it.
Laura Hegfield says
I remember years ago when I first started teaching teens (8th graders at that point) a seasoned teacher said to me: “If you can one kid to pays attention for 5 minutes…you’ve done your job”. I allowed that to soak in and eventually learned how to reel in more than one kid…for lengthier blocks of time…but as you said, ultimately it wasn’t about me at all…it was about each student and where their mind/heart was on that day. So just as you say, we can’t make anybody do/listen to anything they aren’t ready to do/hear. I now have two teenagers of my own at home…believe me…this is even more clear for me now! And adults aren’t any different…even when they have paid money to come hear us speak or teach…everyone has their own “stuff” going on…so leaving the “judge” at home is healthiest and the most sane choice for all involved parties.
Indeed, Laura. I see now that this is all training for when my daughter Lucy becomes a teenager. Heaven help me!
Karl Staib - Work Happy Now says
It’s hard not to take these people personally. They are trying to bring us down. All of us encounter them in the course of our work.
You make a good point. We can’t believe that we know what they are thinking. They might actually be enjoying the presentation.
We need to accept people for who they are. When we can enjoy a person for who they are that shows them that they are loved. They may even be willing to open up and enjoy who you are if you happen to say the right thing. They might not show it, but like you said you might even make their day.
This would be made much easier if we were blessed with the power of mind reading :)
Part of the reality of life is the fact that we will never know all things. In this regard we should broaden our horizons and deepen our understanding. This is much better than to react and punish ourselves. :-)
Absolutely, Walter. It’s amazing (and sad) how often we punish ourselves for no good reason…
“…shaving rabid goats with a broken razor.”
Now that gives quite the image! Thanks for the laugh :D
Happy to help, Melissa. :)
Lisa Braithwaite says
I never assume a stone-faced audience member isn’t enjoying my talk. Sometimes this is just the way they listen and learn. I’ve had so many experiences with arms-crossed frowny face teens and adults telling me they enjoyed and learned from my presentation, that I don’t even think twice about it any more. Now if HALF the audience looks like that, I might rethink what I’m doing… :-) Here’s a post I wrote about this a while back: http://tinyurl.com/pxrx42.
Nice post, Lisa. This is something that comes with experience, but we all need the reminder from time to time.
Now, what should you do if they start throwing tomatoes at you?
Lisa Braithwaite says