Caution: The Booths Have Ears

So, I’m sitting in a coffee shop last week, minding my own business, lounging in a big comfy chair, laptop in hand, sipping on a cup of tea when I heard from a table across the way, “Oh, you must know So-and-So.”  There were two guys sitting there, obviously having a professional networking meeting.  The other fellow responded, “Yes, of course, I know So-and-So very well!”  Well, it turns out that So-and-So is a very close friend of mine… good thing the conversation with the two guys at the table was friendly, right?

Another friend called me a few weeks ago.  He told me he had been at lunch with a prospective client earlier that day.  Somehow they ended up on the topic of a local company that both had been trying to get in to see.  My buddy said, “Yes, I received an introduction to John Doe, the owner of the company, but haven’t met with him, yet.”  They proceeded to have a conversation about the owner and the company.  Again, it was all friendly talk.  The part that is slightly concerning — and quite embarrassing — is that as my friend was getting up from the lunch table, he felt a tap on the shoulder.  He didn’t recognize the person standing next to him until the guy said, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.  I’m John Doe!”

When I think about these stories, I’m reminded of my parents’ words of caution to me throughout my life… whenever we are in restaurants talking about what is going on in our lives, they encourage me to never use people’s names and to lower my voice.  They say, “Careful!  The booths have ears.”  Now I know specifically what they mean by their advice!

The good news in both situations described:  The conversations about “So-and-So” and “John Doe” were favorable.  However, they could just as easily have been disparaging or pejorative in nature.  The people sitting nearby could have been hurt or offended or worse.

Lessons learned:

  1. Beware what you say sitting in the booth of your favorite restaurant, coffee shop or gathering spot. The booths have ears!
  2. If you have a confidential story to share with someone, lower your voice or, better yet, discuss it in a private location.
  3. Remember what you learned as a child: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

So, enjoy your coffee and lunch meetings, keep your voice down, say only nice things and Happy Networking!

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