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Natalia St-Va
Is it ok to interfere in someone else's conversation?

Yesterday, I was in a spa hotel in St Pete, where I live. While I was in a sauna, I heard a conversation between girls (there was no way of not hearing) who were going  to celebrate a special event  in a restaurant. They considered one trendy restaurant which had moved to another location due to some circumstances but they didn’t know that. Though I wanted to tell them about it, I said nothing for at least two reasons; 

1. The rights to intervene in others talk. 

2. This restaurant moved to another place a few years ago and thus, I reached the conclusion that they might have wanted to make an impression by talking about this fashionable place. 

Do you think  it might be appropriate to let strangers know that their information  is wrong? What might your reaction be  if you receive any comments in this situation? 

I personally have conflicting feelings:) 

Thank you

Feb 21, 2018 3:37 AM
Comments · 25

In my opinion, if the conversation is at full volume (i.e. they are not whispering or obviously trying to keep the conversation private) and the information you would like to share with them would be helpful, I think it's fine to say something.

The 'normal' way to intervene here would be:

"Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear you talking about the restaurant called X. I'm pretty sure they moved to a new location last year so you might want to look them up online."

Of course some people think they are always right and may not want your information, but I think that's pretty rare. In those cases you can just walk away and let them waste their time going to the wrong spot :)

February 21, 2018

People around here are inviting in their conversations; I mean they do want you to give an opinion,

unless they speak in a manner which shows clearly that they want their conversations to be private.

So while with a friend trying to pick a dessert from the menu, it's normal that someone who happened

to stand close and overheard you to give an advice about a dessert that they have tried before and

advise you to order it :)

Every time I was having a conversation with a friend and got interrupted by a stranger, I felt it was

a nice gesture and a sincere advice about something related to our conversation. In the case you 

have mentioned, I would definitely tell the girls about the new location. Usually I do that, but I don't

take it as a chance to continue in the same conversation unless they needed to ask about extra info

that I know of. Mainly because I'm not into talking that much even with my friends, and usually I listen

to them more than I speak.

It's funny that sometimes in a store fitting rooms, while minding your own business and trying on a 

dress or something, and asking a friend whether the dress suits you or not, to hear other different 

opinions from strangers around you who invited themselves into the conversation :) So I say this

whole situation is very normal here, and yes, even in a steam room, jacuzzi or the swimming pool :D

Today I visited an Iranian Exhibition and I was looking at the sweets boxes not knowing what to buy!

I asked about the ingredients and the Iranian owner was trying to tell me in broken Arabic, so an Iraqi

couple joined the conversation and explained to me in perfect Arabic. I've to admit that it was a very

nice gesture and we kept running into each other in that exhibition as they tried to help me

as much as they can :)

February 21, 2018

This is indeed a very tricky situation. Often, people are shocked when an outsider comments on their conversation because somehow they believe no one can hear them, although they are shouting in a public place. They can often feel as if you have violated their privacy and treat you badly.  I've had this experience a few times.

Personally, I value information. If I'm having a conversation and say something wrong, but a stranger sitting next to me knows the correct answer or a better fact, I'd LOVE for them to interrupt me and tell me. I'd be very happy to learn something. But, I could be a rarity in this regard.

Here is an event I experienced about NOT informing someone...for a good reason! :-).....  I was on a train in England that was waiting to start its journey to Southampton. The train was sitting on the track where the trains to London stop, but the train was clearly marked SOUTHAMPTON and not LONDON.

A few minutes before we departed, a man came into the train car, pulled out his mobile phone and started a loud conversation.  He was yelling I'LL BE IN LONDON IN A HALF AND HOUR, SO TELL GREG WE'LL MEET AT FIVE, ALRIGHT?  Well, the other people on the train looked at each other....and smiled. Our train wasn't going to London, clearly! It was obvious that the man had assumed that any train on that track was a London train, and not bothered to check. Nobody told him his error. Why?.Because he was obviously an idiot who needed a lesson in paying attention.  

When the train announcement started "Welcome on board the 713 to Southampton...." the man stood up and shouted WHAT? IS THIS NOT THE LONDON TRAIN??  We all shook our heads "no" and he ran off the train cursing. Everybody giggled and smiled at each other. 

 This has been my guideline ever since: will it help this person more, or less, if I stay silent? 

February 21, 2018

I think if a foreigner tried to intervene in a conversation, people would like it and feel flattered :)

But if it happened the other way around, and I for example heard two foreigners speaking, and

I knew I could correct their information, I would hesitate a little to intervene in their conversation

because of the cultural differences between us. They might not take it well or even like the fact

that I overheard them. So unless they appeared to be lost or looking at my direction hoping that

I would give an opinion in their conversation, I wouldn't say anything :D

I'll give you an example from the gym I go to, where we have members from different countries

like Russia, Tunisia, Cuba, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Thailand, Syria and the U.S. I've noticed 

that everyone is getting into others' conversations easily ;) But maybe because it's a gym.

In general though, I believe it's safe here if you want to correct someone's info or give an opinion,

and it all depends on the situation. Of course there are always exceptions! I guess if people are

going into a happy conversation, they wouldn't mind it, but if they seem to talk while being sad, 

nervous or angry, it's a sign that it's best not to say anything :')

You are always welcome, Natalia :))

February 22, 2018
While talking in public spaces we assume that we are on the same page with everyone around us in terms of the social norms. It probably differs from culture to culture, but in Poland, in such a situation those two girls would know that others can hear them, but would also know that they will pretend they don't because that's the social expectation. It's like having a private space inside a public space, only it's imaginary. It works only as long as everybody plays by the rules. By interrupting their discussion, you basically say "hey, you know those walls are imaginary, don't you?". This is bound to be an awkward moment, no matter what your intentions are. 

Once it is clear that the rules have been broken, and you all have to stay in the same space, it gets even more awkward, because you're not sure what to do next: go back to following the rules and continue with pretending that there is this semi-private space after all or behave as if you all were in some sort of a meeting, although you don't know nor have any wish of getting to get to know each other.

So, no, normally I wouldn't say anything.
February 21, 2018
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Natalia St-Va
Language Skills
English, Russian
Learning Language