I am a prolific eavesdropper. Prolific may not be the right word as you don’t really create anything while eavesdropping (or maybe you do and they’re called eavesdroppings?) but if there were a way to be prolific at it, that’s what I would be.
Most of my eavesdropping happens by accident—I turn up to work at a coffee shot, put my earbuds* in, dive into the work and forget to turn the music on. At some point something someone says catches my ear and the eavesdropping begins in earnest (in EARnest? Anyone?).
There are of course times when I eavesdrop intentionally. I’ll catch a snippet of interesting conversation and want to listen in on more, or I’ll spot an intriguing person and want to know who they’re meeting with and what about. I’m no NSA but I’m definitely paying attention. Sometimes I’ll even confess my eavesdropping to be able to introduce myself and learn more after the fact.
I won’t say which of these have been accidental eavesdropping and which have been intentional but in recent weeks I’ve met a fashion buyer, marathoner, clothing designer, gotten lots of ideas for new drawings and borrowed a window into the world of book publishing. And those are just the ones I can remember. What resulted were new concepts, connections and collaborations. And they say eavesdropping is a bad thing.
The one fundamentally necessary element for eavesdropping to work (besides earbuds of course) is curiosity. Not in a, “Oooh, I wonder what I can get out of this” kind of way but more of a, “Oooh, I wonder what they’re talking about.” If you have a legitimate interest in the world around you and the people making their way through it, some eavesdropping delights are sure to follow.
*It’s fascinating to me how just the physical act of putting in earbuds serves as a separation between the world of regular life and the world of focused work and creates a difference headspace, even if you don’t end up turning them on. Maybe one day I will have enough musings about this to make an entire post on earbuds.