Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep

by Krista on March 5, 2014 — 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?

I dislike eavesdropping. It’s a major cause of serious misunderstanding and conflict. Consider the story of Heathcliff and Cathy. If Heathcliff hadn’t heard only half of what Cathy said, gotten angry and stormed off without waiting to hear the rest of the story (context, context!!), generations of literary misery could have been avoided. This is a tale that has been aggravating me for more than half a century both as a book and on film. I don’t care how romantic it is. It’s stupid.

If my plastic pals could talk, what tales they could tell!
If my plastic pals could talk, what tales they could tell!

You seen, that’s the fundamental problem with eavesdropping. You never hear the whole story. And you don’t hear it in context, just pieces which inevitably don’t mean what you think they do.

When I bump into someone else’s conversation, especially if it happens to concern me, I run. Literally. I do not want to hear it. Sure, they could be telling each other what an amazing human being I am and how much they admire me, but the odds don’t favor that. For reasons best known to the Fates, we will only overhear conversations that reflect poorly on us, that seem to show our friends as disloyal backstabbers … whether or not they really are. And having heard what we heard illicitly so to speak, we don’t feel we can confront someone about it.

Which mean they never get to explain the context or even apologize, if that’s appropriate. We keep those ugly, overheard words tucked in our souls. We burn with outrage, sometimes for a lifetime.

There’s no percentage in it. Eavesdropping can make you miserable, but I’ve never heard of it making anyone happier. Not ever. Remember Heathcliff. You could find yourself roaming the heaths forever calling in vain for your beloved because you couldn’t resist listening in to a bit of private conversation.

When you find yourself within earshot of someone else’s private communication, block your ears and run for the hills. You’ll be glad you did.

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Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!


  1. This is brilliant, Marilyn: so true, and funny and bang on the nail in every respect. Now, excuse me while I share it on! xxx


      1. Course they don’t, course they don’t! That’s why the slang, derogatory word for gossip refers to the female dog! We bitch! Networking sounds so rational and necessary, doesn’t it?! Ho hum! Boy, do some guys – not your Garry, obviously! – delude themselves! Mind you, the ones to look out for (and avoid) are those who have no interest in gossip, networking, bitching – however one wishes to put it! – at all! xxx


        1. Garry worked in show business his whole life. He’s just being tongue-in-cheek. They REALLY gossip in the TV world. Holy moly! Sometimes, it really IS just information … the rest of the time? It’s pure entertainment.


  2. Men gossip I assure you! I avoid over hearing all conversations as once I listened and it hurt me. I learned my lesson. I also do not look on public accts such as Instagram etc as that can be really bad.


    1. I have never actually been on instagram and am not entirely sure what it is. Maybe we should all redefine gossip and call it something important. Redefinition always cures social ills, doesn’t it?


  3. (Hangs head in shame) I am a champion eavesdropper. There is a certain rush I get from listening to something that was not intended for my ears. Probably what doesn’t turn me against eavesdropping is the fact that I am actually very curious about what people say about me behind my back, even the people I like and respect. I talk about them behind their back, and I know they talk about me behind mine… that’s just the way human nature generally works. We are all two-faced in that regard. I am also more likely to get a kick out of hearing something negative said about me than something positive… I’m strangely masochistic in that way!


    1. Most overheard conversations amongst strangers are as exciting as watching paint dry, but once, in a fancy restaurant (back when we did that sort of thing) Garry and I got to overhear an entire sales pitch by a hopeful director to a potential investor for a movie project. Garry almost spit his dinner out from laughing. What a pitch! Sadly, though we waited eagerly, the movie was never produced. Good pitch, though.

      I know this sounds terribly moralistic, but I actually try not to say anything behind someone’s back that I wouldn’t say to their front. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m saying nice stuff, only that whatever it is, I’m willing to defend it.


  4. Half the fun..maybe a TV newsroom is the gossip that swirls even as we chase deadlines. It’s a movie within a movie. Even if you are very I was..some of the background jabber would make Groucho, Mel Brooks and their colleagues crack up. I was the serious guy. Right!!


    1. Loss of innocence. Sad. My granddaughter always paid appropriate homage to Santa Claus even when we were long past pretending and her belief was seriously undermined. Her philosophy was “Just in case, cover the bases.”


  5. Lot of wisdom in those words! I am on your page… The only thing just as bad, maybe worse, is catching someone who obviously eavesdropped on your conversation. How do you know? Your get half of your own story back!


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