I like to know things – to be in the loop even if I’m not technically in the circle. I’m just nosey I suppose. At least this trait is useful if I want to investigate in my field of study, after all, a professional archaeologist told me “we are just nosey people.” I agree with her.
SO I do this thing where I sit in a public place, usually a coffee shop or a sports bar (on weekends). I’ll start out by minding my own business but the longer I sit there I start to pick out people and conversations that I can hear from where I sit. Most of the time it’s subconscious but then I become interested and suddenly I’m trying to hear what they are talking about. I supposed if I was doing this and then interjecting myself then it would be really rude. However, I am learning about the community and things going on and most importantly, I’m learning to listen to other people viewpoints and just say to myself “Ok. That’s what they think about it.” I don’t usually react (save for the few times people’s laughter became contagious and they caught me listening because I laughed with them).
I love hearing stories about people’s lives – nothing spectacular, just real. I love hearing people’s opinions on world events (even if mine is different). I really like to understand why they think and feel the way they do. Sometimes people just notice me hanging out and will strike up a conversation because I’m the next closest person in the room – and that is when things get really interesting. If you are a people person (even slightly) it can be so freeing to just go where people don’t know you and mingle with strangers and find things to talk about. You may never see those people again, but having made a connection and having a meaningful conversation about the world and life and world views is an experience that is very special to me. I think that’s the draw that I have to studying culture. It brings me out of myself and my small world and puts me in a bigger and more adventurous place with other humans.
Back to the title question, “Is it always wrong to eavesdrop?” My answer is ‘no’. I think it is wrong if you are just looking for dirt to gossip about, but if you have a genuine interest on people, then go ahead and just listen. Listen without judgment, as you would like to be listened to. You will hear many things that you do and some you absolutely do NOT agree with, but continue to listen objectively.
As someone who loves to be heard and talk, being quiet and listening to others has always been a struggle. My work relationships and my studies have taught me the value of listening to understand, not just to reply. Perhaps this is the wisdom they say comes with age.
“Listening is the secret to discovering great stories.”– Unknown