Everybody listens differently.
This is one of those "slice of life" moments from a professional storyteller.
During a recent performance at a camp deep in the forests of the Prescott mountains, I watched with interest the behavior of a young man, about 14 years old, in my audience. He sat in the front row of this large, high-school-aged crowd with a group of his friends, all of whom appeared to be watching me intently. However, this young man stood out for his lack of attention. Every time I would look at his group, he would be looking off to one side or the other. Now, I am not so egoistical as to demand that my audience watch my every move, but unlike his friends who seemed to be engaged, he appeared to have something better to do than watch this storyteller.
Positioned by the exit door at the end of the night, I was shaking hands with kids as they left. My non-attentive young audience member came through the line and stuck out his hand. “Thanks for the stories tonight, they were very good,” he said. Not sure he had heard anything at all that I had said, I asked him which stories he liked the best. He answered quickly, “Oh, the one about the giant guy and the other one about that boy who lost his hat that his dad gave him. They were pretty cool and they made me think.”
Although I am used to audiences of teenagers and adolescents and their listening styles, I had to pursue this conversation just a moment longer. I said to him, “Well, I am glad you liked them, but it didn’t look like you were enjoying yourself. You never looked up.” He replied, “Yeah, I thought it was better for me to listen to you sideways so I could get the pictures in my head.”
Sean Buvala is the director of Storyteller.net. (Originally posted 2006).