It's a pretty fine line between eavesdropping and simply overhearing. "I don't mean to be eavesdropping," my colleague said to me. I had been trying to talk quietly so suspect she needed to listen carefully to hear the conversation. Her interruption, though most likely well intended and trying to help us resolve a situation, took us on a sidetrack that wasn't particularly helpful.
Later, the same day, I found myself in a situation where I could hear part of a conversation between other colleagues. They were using hushed tones so it was clear to me that they weren't wanting others to hear their conversation. I deliberately distracted myself with my ipad and lunch so that I didn't listen and have no idea what they were talking about.
Then again the other day I overheard a conversation on a tram when passengers were talking about the friendliness of the tram driver. I heard the conversation and looked to join in with a nod of acknowledgement because I agreed with them. It seemed like an appropriate thing to do, as a sense of community emerged through the common experiences of the passengers.
These experiences got me thinking about when is hearing something eavesdropping and when is it simply overhearing? Perhaps it's eavesdropping when you become part of a conversation that you are not being included in. Perhaps it's eavesdropping when you take the information and share it with someone else - there's probably a different name for that - like gossiping.
Overhearing conversations around us can happen a lot during each day and sometimes it can provide rich fodder for writing or thinking about the world around us. Sometimes we can hear something we would prefer not to have heard and then we need to decide what to do with that information. Presumably if the information was not intended for us we should do nothing with it but sometimes that might not be the best thing to do. Such as if we hear something Sometimes hearing a little bit of a conversation can mean we end up with a false impression of what is happening so we always need to be cautious if we choose to pass that information on.criminal or inappropriate being planned for example.
It's simply another example of the trickiness of the world around us when we think this through. It can be tricky to know when to join a conversation, when to pretend we didn't hear something and when to pass information on. There are sensitivities around this in the workplace, at home and where ever else we might find ourselves. Our intention in using the information is also worthy of some reflection. Is it for the sake of gossiping? Is it because we feel we have a moral duty to do so? Or is it to highlight our own knowledge, to show off? Maybe that's the real question to ask ourselves when deciding what to do.