Social Question

jca's avatar

Is it unacceptable to comment on someone else's phone conversations that you can't help but overhear?

Asked by jca (28482 points ) April 22nd, 2010

sometimes my coworker who sits in a cubicle across from me will comment on something she overheard me say on the phone, or ask me about something she heard me discuss. i know she can’t help but overhear my conversation. i will also comment on another coworker’s calls, but only if it’s business (like i will tease her about the things she said to the customer, but i will not comment if it seems to be a personal call). i am wondering if it’s improper or unacceptable to comment or ask about something we can’t help but overhear, but yet actually does not concern us at all?

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15 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It is rude to comment on any call, unless asked, even business calls. You should seek out a private corner for personal calls, and keep your voice down.

Your_Majesty's avatar

Basically it’s their business and you should respect their privacy. It won’t be a problem if you don’t go any further toward their personal business and if that person don’t mind if you do that.

MorenoMelissa1's avatar

Yes it is unacceptable.

jaytkay's avatar

Depends on your relationship.

If my girlfriend overheard me on the phone saying something stupid or wrong or unwise, she should say whatever she wants.

If a stranger on the street overhears that same conversation, then no, not their business.

Those are extremes, where on that spectrum is your coworker?

wundayatta's avatar

If someone is rude enough to have personal conversations in a work setting, then I don’t think they have a right to any privacy. It is extremely uncomfortable to have to overhear someone else’s private business, but some people don’t seem to care. If they don’t care, then they deserve my comments and heckling. If they were polite, they’d take their personal conversations to where they have privacy.

But people don’t give a shit any more. With cell phones, people walk around everywhere shouting their personal business to the random public. Most of us aren’t interested and try to pretend we don’t hear—not for them, but for us. But sometimes it’s impossible to ignore. In either case, I think the person blabbing deserves whatever response anyone gives them.

It’s nice if people try to pretend they didn’t hear anything, or try to provide privacy for a friend or a coworker, but friends and coworkers should have no expectation of privacy if they choose to make private calls within the earshot of anyone they know.

It’s rude to talk personal in front of anyone else—to impinge on their personal space. It’s not the other way around—rude to comment on someone’s “personal” conversation. If it’s personal, they’ll take it private. Otherwise, the assumption is that it’s open season.

mrrich724's avatar

I agree and disagree with @wundayatta

I agree with her that if you talk in public about something you want to be private, it’s your own damn fault.

I disagree that it’s rude to have a conversation in public though. If you’re speaking really loud, and yelling profanities, it’s rude, otherwise, what the hell is the point of a cellphone? Instant gratification, so you can talk wherever you are and not have to go to a remote location.

wundayatta's avatar

@mrrich724 That’s what makes it necessary for there to be cell-phone free train cars and for theaters to ask people to turn off their cell phones. Having the ability to talk to anyone anywhere at any time doesn’t mean you should do it. It is still important to be polite to others.

phillis's avatar

CRAP! I wrote what I was saying instead of what I mean to say. The answer is “No!” Unequivocably, NO. You do not comment on a phone call you overhear unless Guido and Louie are planning a kneecap attack. or something similar

john65pennington's avatar

Its unacceptable and here is one better. people that talk on cellphones so loud, that they do not need a cellphone. they could just stand outside and yell and the other person could hear them, along with eveyone else.

Why do people talk so loud on a cellphone. do they have a hearing problem?

DarkScribe's avatar

I love doing it.

When some guy is being a nuisance and talking loudly on his phone in a restaurant or similar, I’ll lean in close and say loudly. “C’mon – get off the phone, the girls are getting impatient – they won’t wait for us much longer.”

It usually stops them in their tracks.

Judi's avatar

I think it’s unacceptable to accept personal calls at work unless it’s an emergency.

Nullo's avatar

Certainly rude, if I don’t know any of the parties. I do it anyway if I think that my input will be useful.

Thanks to the curse of the Bluetooth headset, I can’t always tell when I’m being addressed, and will sometimes reply in my ignorance.

Jibbah_Jabbah's avatar

It is unacceptable to force your co-workers to hear about your private life. If you wish them to construct an artificial situation that does not exist, speak to them about it. Say, “I know you can hear all of my phone calls and I know it’s rude to bombard you with all of my personal nonsense, but can you please pretend you aren’t hearing all of this mess I’m forcing you to hear? I’d really appreciate it. Thank you.”

It is likely you will get some strange looks in response and there might be a good reason for it.

thriftymaid's avatar

Since all of you understand that you have no privacy, it would be foolish to engage in telephone conversations that you feel should be private. It’s an office, and business is all that should really be going on there. So, to comment is OK when you have a truly relevant this to say. Don’t be annoying though.

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