By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.
A while back I was interrupted by a doorbell as I was telling a group of friends a particularly riveting story. Once the person had left, I waited for someone to ask me, “What happened then?” I mean – weren’t they all dying to hear the rest? Turns out, the answers was no. The conversation resumed, but no one seemed to remember that I was in the middle of a story. Now, this doesn’t happen to me very often, so I of course stewed about it and tried to come up with a justifiable reason why they weren’t interested. All I could come up with was the painful truth – no one cared.
This situation stuck with me and since then I pay attention to what happens when someone is interrupted during a story: Do people ask questions to get the story-teller to continue? Does the conversation move on with no one remembering that someone was in the middle of a story? Does the story-teller take up where they left off even though no one seems to care? What I noticed in my non-scientific investigation is that it is fairly rare that someone asks the story-teller a question to get them to continue – the story must be particularly intriguing, or was only missing the big finale. When the person continues without being asked, most of the time you can sense the disinterest as people politely let the person finish. Often, everyone simply forgets someone was telling a story and they move to the next subject. Continue reading