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Thoughts For Thursday: How Do You Handle Eavesdroppers?

November 10, 2011 · 34 comments

in Life, Thoughts For Thursday

Have you ever been in a restaurant having a quiet conversation, when you notice the stranger sitting at the next table over is hanging on every word you say?

What did you do?

When I notice this happening, I usually just look over at the person in a way that says “please focus on your dinner and not my conversation”.

One time though, I took my response to a whole new level.

I was about 20 years old, and a friend and I were dining at a Big Boy restaurant.  We were at a booth, and there was just a wooden separator between us and the person in the next booth.  So, eavesdropping was very easy.

I was telling my friend the true story of how a helicopter had to land at the park down the street from my house because a man that worked in nearby shop had cut off his thumb (or so the story goes, not sure what really happened to him), and he had to be airlifted somewhere.  The woman in the next booth was really intrigued by my story, so I spiced it up a bit.

I started talking about how strong the wind was when the helicopter took off again and I said “It was so embarrassing because when the first wind gust game, my wig blew right off” and I grabbed my hair, as if it were my wig.  The woman of course started staring at my hair, just as I intended.

I don’t know why I was messing with this woman, she was sitting at the restaurant alone, and I suppose it is human nature to just tune in to your surroundings when you have nothing else to occupy your mind.  However, she was so obvious about her eavesdropping that I thought I would give her a more interesting story to enjoy.  My friend played along fantastically too, and was full of empathy over the fact my wig blew off and that I had to go chasing after it.

I have grown up some since then, but I still don’t know of a good way to deal with eeavesdroppers.  It isn’t even like I divulge anything exciting when I am out in public, I just don’t like that feeling of someone ‘hovering’ over my conversation.

So, what tips do you have for handling eavesdroppers?  Or, are you the eavesdropper?  If so, have you ever overheard something really surprising when out in public?  (I know I have unwillingly been an eavesdropper myself, when people are so loud you can’t help but overhear every word they say.)

 

 

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle November 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

I guess I look at it that if you’re in public and having a conversation that anyone can overhear, I don’t really get mad at someone listening. If you pick up on someone listening in on something you don’t want them listening in on, you can just stop the story and pick it up later. If it’s just making you uncomfortable as a general rule, you can maybe say ‘Oh, I’ll finish the story later’. Chances are, if the person eavesdropping is with someone else, they’ll lose interest in you and you can just pick back up a few minutes later anyways.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Beagle, I just don’t want them to be obvious about it. I can’t stand when I am typing and someone hovers over me and such. I think it is just knowing that the person is listening that it bothers me. I never have anything that interesting that must be kept secret. However, it is the obvious ones that bug me. They could at least pretend to be reading a book! :)

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Jacq November 10, 2011 at 8:39 am

Kris, I still remember that blog post you wrote in a coffee shop when you were eavesdropping on some younger girls. ;-) IIRC, they were loud.

No, I don’t think I really eavesdrop… much. If I’m out in public alone, I’ve usually got my head in a book or am daydreaming. If I’m out in public and not alone, I don’t really notice anything else around me. At work, sure when you’re in an open cubicle environment. I think everyone does and sometimes it’s a good thing if someone is talking about a work issue and you can help somehow or they can help you.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 9:26 am

You are remembering correctly Jacq. However, in Starbucks, these girls were yelling, and very inappropriate things at that!

Don’t you hate at work when the person in the cube next to you is on the phone so loud that not only can you not help overhear it, but you wish they would just stop talking? That is a whole other problem altogether.

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Jacq November 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Well, it made for an entertaining story anyway – we’ve all had that happen. Unfortunately we’re usually trapped on a bus or something and can’t get away.;-)

I used to wear headphones with nothing playing in those situations. But usually I kind of zone out so it doesn’t bug me too much. Probably comes from having my dad yelling at us 24/7 and learning to block that out. :-P

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Kris November 15, 2011 at 9:06 am

Having the ability to tune out others can be a wonderful thing! (As long as you can control it and only use it during applicable situations, and not when the house is on fire… :))

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MoneyCone November 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

Haha! That’s a funny story! Boy did she have stories to tell *her* friends that evening! ;)

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 9:56 am

I would have had to pay good money for that late 80′s wig- I had a lot of hair! :)

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gharkness November 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

Well, if I am out in public and have been seated close enough to someone who is speaking loudly enough to be heard, I will definitely listen, simply because it’s hard to tune people out. But that person would never know by my demeanor that I was listening. It seems a little silly to be so obvious about it.

I have been cursed with excellent hearing, and honestly, I try to sit as far away from people as possible when in public. Most daily conversations just aren’t that interesting!

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm

So that Miracle Ear would drive you insane I suppose?

You will probably appreciate your excellent hearing as you get older!

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Squirrelers November 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

It’s an interesting topic. Generally, we all like privacy, right? In most cases, anyway. Unless someone craves attention in this way, most of us want our private conversations to remain that way – private. Yet, sometimes we might take interest in a juicy conversation going on at a table next to us. In that way, at one point or another, we’re all hypocrites with this. Maybe it’s human nature? Or maybe it’s just me? :)

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Don’t think it is just you Squirrel. Most of the time, loud conversations are forced on others and you want to just close your ears. Sometimes though, it seems someone is really upset and I want to talk to them and try and help. I guess I am a hypocrite too, but I am more discrete…

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Krantcents November 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I relate to your 20 year old self putting her on with a bogus story. Even at my age, I might do that! I find it fun to put people on. It has nothing to do with her eavesdropping.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I often wonder if I would do the same thing over again. I also wonder if she ever knew I was making up the part about my wig. I was pretty believable though. :)

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Christa November 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I haven’t ever noticed anyone eavesdropping on my conversation, but I have dealt with people who are really nosy. Usually I just play it by ear and disclose as much as I want them to know. If they’re closer to me, they get more of the story. Not so close, I just tell them the most basic stuff necessary.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I often wonder if the people are nosy or just interested/want to help. If it is a ‘busy body’ though, I disclose nothing.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Sometimes I just look at people directly. That typically makes them uncomfortable. I’m such a private person, so easedropping constitutes a real violation. That said, if you are out in public, why would you discuss something that personal anyway.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

It wasn’t that the story was personal, I just found it funny that the woman just blatantly looked at us and was actively listening. If you are going to eavesdrop, either join in, or don’t be so obvious!

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 11, 2011 at 7:49 am

I wasn’t suggesting that you were saying something personal but rather saying it is somewhat dubious to me why easedropping is such a privacy violation to me personally when I know better than to discuss private matters in public. Sorry, I re-read my comment and can see why you were confused. Cheers!

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Kris November 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

Oh no it is fine! I just wanted to further clarify!

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20's Finances November 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I’m the eavesdropper – but I don’t look at the people… chh! …some amateurs!

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Great response! She was definitely an amateur!

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Carol@inthetrenches November 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Had to laugh at your story. Having spent the last 20 years in a rural community the typical response is just to jump right into the conversation. If one is talking loud enough for others to hear than it must not be private. :) It’s fun because soon you can get the whole area laughing and introducing themselves one to another.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I think I would have been more comfortable if she had joined in the conversation!

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First Gen American November 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Well, I try not to have private conversations in public places. I guess if I want to have a private conversation, I go somewhere that people can’t hear me and the other person talking. So I guess I don’t care if people eavesdrop.

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I just felt like someone was ‘watching me’, which I really don’t like. Believe me, my story was not personal. Not until I started talking about my wig…

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First Gen American November 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Yeah, I hate that feeling of someone staring at you. Makes me feel self conscious.

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Jesort415 November 10, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Sadly just last night I was the “unwilling eavesdropper” of not conversation but my downstairs neighbor during some adult fun time with one of her BFs. I was asleep when I was awoken by banging, thought it was one of my kids only to find the noise was coming from under me not next to me. She lives alone but always yells on the phone so I can hear her convo and always hated it but after last night I will be grateful when it is her just talking :-)

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Kris November 10, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Yikes, that would be the worst. That must have been incredibly unwilling eavesdropping.

Maybe you should jump rope or something next time it happens…

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UltimateSmartMoney November 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

This may be difficult but I just ignore them. It does not hurt me in anyway when they eavesdrop so I just continue to talk. For those who really are brave, you can tell that person to stop eavesdropping and embarrass them in public.

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Kris November 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

People may eavesdrop on me a lot more than I know, although my conversations usually are not so riveting. This person was so obvious though that you couldn’t help but notice the eavesdropping.

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liz October 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm

give them some mind-bending horror to hear, freak them out totally- I do it- I have neighbours who use ‘listening devices’ (too cheap and no legislation to protect us) at best they are hearing stuff out of context – little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing – so give them something to kill their brains – horror- talk about the laundry too – mundane boring stuff too- between debating with yourself whether we are aliens or not – but sadly – until there is law – we are raped and violated by any junkie in ‘authority’ and they can masturbate whilst listening to us if they so choose – so sorry to all who understand me here, it’s hell

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