They are always there and I don't know what to do with them in my mind. They are usually, but not always, women which makes kind of sense because my audience is usually, but not always, women. They look angry. They look hostile. They certainly don't smile. And they never laugh. It was Joe who first noticed the phenomenon. After a lecture, even one that had gone well, he'd mention seeing someone sit and never smile, never make a note, someone who endured rather than enjoyed the lecture. I never told him that I really didn't need to hear about these people, even though I didn't want to hear of them, because it was important to remember that there were those who simply hated the message, the style or the presenter.
A few months ago I was lecturing to a group of people in a fairly intimate setting, much different than the usual lecture hall style. I decided, on impulse, that I'd tell the 'Yellow Shirt' story, which I've done a fair but in it's very abridged form. But this time I decided to tell the whole story, which I've done only twice. The reason I shy from the story is that there is a point in there which I have never conquered emotionally and it makes me cry. It has the saddest moment in it and it touches me. I took a breath when I got to the part that breaks my heart, and I felt the tears come. I looked out at the audience. People, oddly, forget that I can see them too, and I felt the room with me. Except for one young woman, maybe 23, staring at me with what seemed to be open hostility. I immediately felt stupid for telling the story, stupid for trusting a group of people with feelings that I could not hide. Until writing this I didn't realize that I've not told the whole story again after that.
More recently, I gave a lecture and there was a woman in the third row back. She crossed her arms and stared at me, the whole day. It was like she was wanting me to notice her anger, wanting me to feel her disapproval. And I did. I wanted to ask her what what up but there's this boundary between audience members and presenters. One that I've never crossed. They can ask me questions, some personal, but I can't ask them. Other presenters my do so but I never have.
But I drive away from these events and though I enjoy the fact that most enjoyed I wonder about those who don't. I mean I know you can't please everyone. I know that while thankfully there are those who enjoy my 'style' there are those that don't.
So why I am writing this today? Well, I'm writing it really for me. I thought that by writing it down I could understand it a little bit more. But I find that I don't. These folks may find it surprising that it matters to me that we didn't connect. But it does. I wonder if it matters to them?