Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?
You got me on this one. I can’t recall an instance when I heard someone talking about me so I can only pass along a second-hand story.
During the first week of orientation for first years at university, one of my friends was looking at some announcements on one side of a bulletin board, and other students were reading from the other side of the freestanding board. She heard them commenting about her — saying “doesn’t that Laura seem kind of strange?” Kind of put my friend in an uncomfortable position. I recall she stayed where she was, trying to disappear, until the others had gone.
That, however, did teach me a lesson, and I think like a lot of us do, if I’m going to talk about someone, good or bad, I glance around to be sure they’re not in the immediate area. One day at school, another faculty member and I were sitting in my computer lab, and we were saying something about the principal when she walked into my room with a little gift she was giving to all faculty. Fortunately, we weren’t saying anything negative, so even if she heard her name mentioned (which almost always makes some one curious), it wasn’t bad.
The first school I worked in had a great principal who was well-respected. She had a strict policy of not gossiping, or even discussing students (or other teachers) in any open area. Not only that, but she did have the ability through the PA system to listen to conversations in the teachers’ lunchroom. I think it’s good advice; you never know how what you say will be construed by others, or if they’re only hearing a snippet of what you say, they may get an inaccurate impression.
In other schools I’ve been in where lips were a bit looser, I actually tried to stay away from the faculty lounge so I wouldn’t overhear gossip. Some of it I just didn’t want to know, especially when it was hearsay about other faculty members, nor did I want to contribute. So I’ve just opted out of the grapevine.