# audience etiquette # etiquette horror story

Narcissistic Audience Members | Teatime with Jennifer + Giveaway Winner

It's that time of year again! Time for recitals, performances and special ceremonies for our children. In today's Teatime with Jennifer, I have another etiquette horror story for you and discuss a trend that I am noticing lately: narcissistic audience members.

We have all seen them: people who disrupt performances because they are not thinking of others. Blocking other people's views with their recording devices, texting and talking loudly... these are just some of the offenses! As our society becomes more and more narcissistic, it is important for us to discuss these sometimes touchy subjects and realize that our actions matter and do affect other people. I hope you join me for today's chat and chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Today I would love to know... do you have any stories to share regarding narcissistic audience members? Have you noticed this behavior has gotten worse in recent years? Do you have any audience etiquette tips you'd like to add? Let me know and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week on the blog.

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BlessedMom71 said...

Hi Jennifer,

I completely agree with you and gave experienced very similar behavior. Most notable are my children's high school and college graduations. Despite the directive (plea) from the administration to hold all applause until after the last graduate's name has been read, so that all names can be heard, and each grad can have their moment, there are always some parents/families who end up screaming their graduate's name, clapping, whistling, etc. One famiky even snuck in a blow horn, and used it when their child's name was called! It really is disruptive, inconsiderate, and quite rude. Many times, it's also embarrassing to their graduate, too, to be the one whose guests are causing a scene. As you stated, there is a pervasive lack of regard for others in our society. These situations are simply the signs of that bigger issue.

Thank you so much for your example and all you do to help us enjoy our everyday lives. I'm so thankful I found you! :)

Mary Helen from NM said...

Thank you for your comments about rude audience members. Any suggestions on how to address the problem in real time. Is there a such thing as audience police? In confronting a rude person the situation could potentially escalate and be made worse. Any thoughts?
Also a quick story, my husband and I went to see Phantom of the Oprah in New York many years ago. The man in front of me began to sing along with the performers. I tapped him on the shoulder and whispered that he had a lovely voice but we came to hear those guys and I pointed to the stage. He stopped singing and we went on to enjoy the show. I've often wondered if I could have handled the situation with more poise.
Thanks Jennifer for all your advice! You have enriched my life and given me and daughters some great topics for discussion.

Christine said...

I spent the entirety of my daughter's final band concert with my view completely blocked by 3 large iPads and a parent with a tripod and multiple cameras that he kept going swapping out during the performance. I had arrived early to get a good seat where I could see her - it was important to me. It was so distracting. If they had popped them out before the performance began, I probably would have said something (kindly) to them, but the iPads popped up when the music began and the tripod parent waited until the lights dimmed so that he could pick the perfect spot - right in front of me.

Unknown said...

Some people do this because they can get away with it. I would suggest that when those people first started their behaviour that the Master of Ceremonies or announcer stop the production, ask them to be seated and cease making noise. I would have announced at the start of the concert that everyone was required to attend for the entire concert and if they were not prepared to do that, they should leave before it started. If there was any refusal/disagreement I would have advised those people (privately) that their daughter's lessons would not be renewed.

It reminds of the dress codes supposedly in effect on cruise lines' gala nights. If the rules are not enforced why have them?

I stopped going to movies because of audience behaviours. I sat next to someone one of the last times who was translating the film. Also annoying, are concerts, etc. where people stand up the entire time and block the new of anyone who wants to remain seated.

I wonder if anyone at your concert raised their concerns and made the music studio aware of how disruptive the behaviour was.

Ladylike said...

Dear Jennifer,
Your story is truly horrifying, and I'm sorry you had to have that experience. I've had similar experiences. One was at a PROFESSIONAL performance of the Nutcracker where we had paid a lot of money for our tickets. There were a few young child performers in a part of the show, and we were sitting next to what turned out to be a rude mother of one of the child performers. She was talking loudly to her other children, photographing, standing up, etc. I don't believe she had paid anything to see the show since she was a parent of a performer. As I recall, I believe I said something to her. And that is my advice to you and to others reading this blog. Do not be silent. If someone near you is disturbing the performance, I believe in telling them that their behavior is interfering with your enjoyment.
In another more recent incident, a young couple behind us at a professional family-oriented performance of the Nutcracker at the San Francisco Ballet was using profane language. Since our young daughter was sitting with us, I turned around and asked the young woman to watch her language. Her date apologized, and the rest of her behavior was uneventful.
I know you mean very well with your tips here, Jennifer. You're most likely preaching to the converted in this forum, but I hope various readers will stumble upon your blog and channel.
I believe the trouble happens when there are audience members who don't normally attend the ballet or the symphony, etc. They don't understand what the etiquette is. They've perhaps only attended events in school auditoriums, rock concerts and sporting events. Therefore, they're not going to catch on unless they're told they're disturbing others. I'm surprised your ballet school mistress didn't say something to the disruptive family. She should have. I hope she'll talk to them after the fact, at the very least.
My daughter started ballet classes this year, and I'm not looking forward to similar experiences. One thing is for certain, if disruptive people are sitting next to me, behind me, etc., at my daughter's shows, I will speak up!


JanElise said...

I agree with Alexandra that the offending parents may have never attended a ballet performance. That is why I really hold the ballet teacher responsible for informing students and parents of proper etiquette and then providing some ushers to enforce it. It is really unfair to allow one family to ruin the enjoyment of all the other families. If after being informed, they still behave in this selfish way, I would expect the teacher to drop the student from future performances. I have seen this rude behavior at high school graduations and award presentations. Why should the school go to the trouble of setting up a solemn ceremony if the parents are going to holler and blow horns and bounce beach balls? I am a retired school principal and I have often been appalled at today's audience behavior.

Katrin said...

We should also be aware that the performers on stage can actually see us and are affected by our behaviour. So for me, the most horrible part of your horror story was the girl with the playstation. Just imagine, you being on stage acting or dancing your heart out and you see someone in the audience playing video games.

Anne said...

The most narcissistic "audience" member that I have ever come across was the lady in front of me in church recently. It was first Holy Communion for a group of young children and before the service started the Priest had asked people to respect the church by not taking photographs or recordings until the service had finished.

About half way through the lady in front of me got out her make-up bag and mirror and started to reapply her full make-up. Then, that finished, she took a bag of snacks out of her handbag and ate them. Each of the children receiving their first Communion had a small part to play in the service and when her daughter started to read a prayer this lady stood up (we were all seated at this point) and started snapping away with her camera.

I could hardly believe my eyes, so rude and disrespectful to the church, the children and the rest of the congregation.

Carrie Willard said...

It being a first time is no excuse. I'm guessing that you and the previous commenter also went to a first performance, but you had upbringing and good manners and had a clue about how to comport yourselves. Some people just have absolutely no clue because they do not care. Jennifer nailed it. Narcissism is on the rise according to experts.

Frenchcaligirl said...

Friends of mine (a husband & wife) were watching a movie at a theater when the couple seated behind them starting talking too loudly and being disruptive. My friends turned around and asked them to please keep their voices down. The couple behind then poured beer over the wife (my friend) so my friends left to tell the manager who then had the disruptive couple removed from the theater. My friend's hair and clothing were then soaked in beer, so they went home rather than going to dinner as planned.

My pet peeve lately has been people having loud phone conversations of sensitive subjects out in public. I was shopping one day when a woman was incessantly talking in a relatively loud voice on her phone about things I really did not want to hear about. As I moved around the store, she seemed to be taking a similar path, so it was a challenge getting away from her.

Wendy Concepcion said...

I would also like to hear what some of the "scripts" someone might use if they do speak up to unaware/rude/narcissistic audience members. When I experience the rude behavior I am often so irritated that the only things I can think of to say would not contain any poise whatsoever. So I end up saying nothing at all. I remember being at a lovely Christmas concert where the girl two seats down for me was live tweeting the entire event and her cell phone was glowing in the dark audience. Someone behind her finally told her to stop and she did but it's amazing to me that anyone would even have to tell someone to do that in the first place. What do you say in a poised manner?

Unknown said...

The whole time I was listening to your video this week, I was shaking my head. And how is this not COMMON SENSE anymore. Or common curtesy?!? It just makes me sad that it is not.

Maire said...

My two children are both adults so we have been to more recitals, concerts and ceremonies than I can even count. However, the worst example of narcissistic audience behavior occurred at the University of Kentucky Commencement ceremony last May. We arrived an hour before the ceremony was to start and ended up at the back of Rupp Arena because people were saving multiple rows of seats for family members! I understand, this may have been the first family member ever to graduate from college or it may have been the fifth generation to graduate from UK. It doesn't matter - tell your family to get there at a certain time and then choose your seats as a group!Normally we would have just sat in some of those saved seats but this was not the time or place to get into a confrontation. But it got worse. There were approximately 3000 students graduating that day and it does take a long time for every graduate to receive their diploma. However, their behavior left us speechless. 75% of those students exited right out the back of the arena after receiving their diplomas instead of returning to their seats. Then their families got up and walked out. Our son received his diploma near the end of the ceremony in a near empty venue. I still can not wrap my head around the rudeness.

Kelsie said...

Although not a performance-related matter, this reminds me of something that happened over the weekend. There's a bookstore I really enjoy, but we don't travel to that area often, so my husband took me there for my birthday. There was a family that kept roaming the aisles using such LOUD voices! I realize it's not a library but people are still trying to read or choose books and I think of bookstores as a quiet, peaceful place. Not only was one woman bumping a stroller into me, you could hear all their voices across the store, word-for-word, as they yelled out to each other. It was a disappointing experience for somewhere I can only visit once a year. :(

Bliss said...

I agree with the comments here. I wonder if you have seen the (now viral) video of two mothers breaking into an all out brawl over seats at a high school commencement this spring, WHILE the graduates were walking in? I could not believe it, and yet I have seen some highly questionable behavior at school events. For example, I was volunteering at a high school concert band competition at our school. Bands from all over the county were in attendance to play and be evaluated by a panel of judges. I worked as an usher, and my primary job was to prevent people from entering the concert hall during a piece of music, as this was distracting to both the performers and judges, and to prevent people from bringing food or beverages (other than water) in the hall which is brand new and lovely. I could not believe the unbelievably rude behavior I encountered from parents when I made these simple requests, quietly and politely. One father, while standing in the hallway outside the hall (because I wouldn't let him enter until the song was over) began talking and cussing loudly, and I'm sure he could be heard inside. Even his wife asked him to quiet down and he proclaimed that he was an adult and he could do whatever he wanted. It's awful. I do think the only hope is for ALL of us to say something. Social pressure is what used to keep these things from happening.

Anonymous said...

I am quite short, and I used to attend rock concerts. The seats are always set up in such a way that if everyone only sat in their seats, everyone could see, no matter their size. However, one person who is already in front will always stand up for the entire performance, causing everyone behind them to stand up. When everyone starts standing, it doesn't matter that the seats are set up for everyone to see; I am now much too short to see over anyone, even if I stand up. I have walked out of performances because of this.

I think that the time has come for every concert, recital, play, or town hall meeting to have ushers. Maybe not so much ushers, actually, as bouncers, like in a biker bar. Because, let's face it -- the world has become a biker bar. Ushers should be instructed to escort out anyone who doesn't play by the rules -- which should be explained before the performance. For this reason, I think the ushers should be men, preferably BIG men -- rather than women. It's a shame it has come to this, but it seems that people cannot be depended on to act in a polite manner. And I am afraid it is only going to get worse, as the children on stage whose parents were acting as if they were the only children in the recital who mattered grow up to think, "You know what? I AM the only one who matters!"

Woman of the House said...

I've spent the past fifteen years of my career as a music teacher for an on-line school introducing middle and high school students to classical music. One thing I always assign is for my students to attend a concert (sometimes two) during the school year and write a paper about their experiences, but before they attend, I teach them about concert hall etiquette. I make sure they know how to dress, how to behave, and generally what to expect. They take it very seriously and many of the papers are peppered with stories about audience members who fell short. My students are truly aghast and almost always express gratitude that they were taught how to be good audience members. It all boils down to the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Anonymous said...

My mother-in-law wouldn't go to a performance just because she's recovering from an illness and dealing with a persistent cough. She doesn't want to disturb other viewers. At the same time, she expects not to be disturbed either, so if someone next to her in the audience behaves inappropriately, she will not hesitate to let them know (politely). Therein lies the root of the problem: people nowadays behave inconsiderately in public, because it has become a no-no to tell people how they're expected to behave. Older people used to command respect, they upheld social rules and passed them down. Nowadays, nobody is allowed to point out anyone's misbehavior. The longer it continues, the less people feel comfortable confronting any etiquette offenders, the more people don't know how to behave in public, and the more it starts to become the new norm.
Notice how people expect someone in authority to address the situation. The teacher, the administrator, the master of ceremonies, the security guard. Let somebody else do it while I silently seethe in frustration and disbelief and hundreds of others are doing the same. Hence, the situation when 5 people in a crowd of a 100 will do as they please, but the overwhelming majority of 95 people will let them do it. I have recently read a life-changing book The Oz Principle by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman. The main idea of the book revolves around the concept of personal accountability, where I am called to first think: "What can I (I, not someone else) do about this?" and "Is there anything else I can do?" Not because I am at fault and not because I am the one who has to solve all the world's problems, but because that position is the only effective one, the only one that will bring tangible results. So I guess, the point of my lengthy comment is what are we going to do to change what we detest in this disruptive behavior?

Ann said...

I have experienced similar behavior to what you describe more times than I can count and I agree with you that it continues to get worse. Another behavior that I have noticed lately that may have narcissistic roots is the audience member who is determined to show just how much more they are appreciating the show than those around them. Of course it is great to laugh during a comic performance (either live or on film) but lately I seem to end up in movies sitting next to someone who is laughing really, really loud completely out of proportion to how funny it is. When you are the only one in a crowded theater laughing during a scene - and it may just be that you have an offbeat sense of humor - you don't need to be doing it at the top of your lungs.

Along these lines, I went to a performance of Chinese acrobats and it was truly amazing - marred by the woman next to me who kept a running monologue as she watched the show. Two hours of never - ending comments like "wow," "oh, gee look at that,". "Don't fall!" She talked through the entire show. I regret that I didn't have the nerve to tell her she was bothering me, but I was afraid that I would come off too humorless. After all, some would say she was just enjoying the show.

Anonymous said...

In the situation, where the parents of one child are are disrupting a collective performance, I would say something like: "Excuse me, this is not a solo. Either we all shout for our children, not letting them perform at all, or we all enjoy it quietly and let them show their talents"

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hello ladies, thank you so much for your input on this post. I think we can all agree, reading these comments, that audience etiquette is on the decline! Frenchcaligirl, your story about the person pouring his drink on your friend was so shocking! That could be why many people are afraid to speak up these days... you are likely to be physically attacked! I enjoyed reading all of your comments and thank you, as always, for your support of this blog. Have a great night! Much love, Jennifer

Patricia said...

Jennifer, I've loved your blog since the beginning. This particular post made me feel so very sad, not only for your and your husband's lack of being able to totally enjoy your daughter's ballet recital because of "narcissistic parents," but more so, this lack of manners and consideration for others now seemingly rampant in our society at large. I see this "Look at Me," attitude at the shopping mall, in movie theaters, in restaurants, and especially at the airport, and even on the plane (loud personal conversations)until passengers are instructed to turn off their computers and cell phones. Even then, some passengers need to be especially told again to shut down their devices, fold their trays, and place their seats in the upright position before takeoff, as if, by their very existence, they are not especially subject to any rules whatsoever. What worries me most is that this sense of inherent entitlement, regardless of others' discomfort has led us to this "at large" society of "casual," with no regard for the venue...church, graduations, school recitals, upscale restaurants...every day is seemingly a "day at the beach."

SueH said...

Jennifer, I've just read your comment about fear being a factor and that was my first reaction. Thank you for being a light in the ever-expanding wilderness!

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