Excused Eavesdropping: Getting involved after accidentally overhearing

by epi on April 19, 2012

Q: Suppose you overhear a conversation in the office, and you know you have an answer to the problem being discussed.  Is there a tactful way to let the group know that you overheard and you’d like to help, while also making it clear that you weren’t eavesdropping?

A: A little honesty is all that’s needed.  In the open offices of today, overhearing other people’s conversations is a fact of life.  Simply say, “I couldn’t help overhearing you, Barbara.  Here’s another approach you might want to consider for that problem.  It worked very well for me.”  Eavesdropping implies you were trying to listen in on a conversation you weren’t meant to be part of.  Overhearing things can’t be helped — but if you’re intentionally eavesdropping on others’ private conversations, that’s a ticket to trouble.

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