The Fine Line Between Flattery and Just Plain Creepy. Have You Ever Found Yourself in This Situation?


The Fine Line Between Flattery and Just Plain Creepy. Have You Ever Found Yourself in This Situation?

There’s a saying that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but there are times when it doesn’t sit right.

Times when it just feels like someone wants to steal your intellectual property (IP) and rip off your ideas. Or is it that they want to know what you’re doing, value it in fact, but just don’t know how to ask you to share.

I’ve just recently been subject to an incidence of eavesdropping, more on that later, which has brought to mind a few other instances from the past:

  • When I had my tax accounting practice, I had a high profile within the Xero accountants’ community, and there were a few accountants who could see my success, the growth of my business and wanted to know more about what I did. I was aware of people circling around trying to figure this out without asking me directly.


  • On one particular occasion at a networking drinks event, one accountant started interrogating me and asking very direct questions. The manner in which the questions were asked made me uncomfortable, and I recall answering some and giving vague answers for other questions. It certainly felt like I was being interrogated and I did receive an apology from his business partner who felt that his partner had overstepped the line. I might add that the accountant had his office a few buildings up the road from my office. I may have felt less threatened had his office had been further afield.


  • And then there was the young accountant who stalked me on LinkedIn. Now he may well have been stalking me on other social media platforms too, I couldn’t tell, but on LinkedIn every three to four weeks he would have checked my profile. He asked to be connected, but I didn’t accept the connection. This went on for a good 18 months. Now I know this young man, we’ve met. It would have been quite easy for him to ask to meet me and have a civilised conversation where I would have happily answered his questions and given him advice.

But what really got my blood boiling recently was at an event with a group of like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs who for the majority were all part of a paid group.

We’ve been interacting and supporting each other for the past nine months. Earlier in the year, I’d posted some of my material only to find a few days later that another member of the group had posted almost identical material calling it their own.

I felt like I’d had my IP copied at that time. Fast forward to the recent event, and the person made a bee-line for me immediately on registering. We had a good and open conversation at that time talking about what we each do, who our target market is and the challenges within our businesses. As I’ve said, I’m happy to share my knowledge and learnings.

But what transpired throughout the rest of the event was that at every break I would be chatting to other attendees only to find them looking over my shoulder at someone else, and when I turned around, there was this person, just listening into our conversation. At no time did the person attempt to join the conversation. At other times, the person would be standing within hearing of my conversation, not talking to anyone else and just eavesdropping, at least, that was how it felt.

I certainly felt very uncomfortable and found it quite unnerving.

Now the big question is:

  • Was this person trying to find out what I was doing, rip off my ideas and steal from me? or
  • Did the person believe that I offered great value in my knowledge, wanting to be a part of it but didn’t have the social graces to join the conversations?

My intuition tells me that it was definitely the former given the earlier interaction. If it feels creepy trust your intuition and take precautions. At the time, whilst it certainly felt creepy and made me extremely uncomfortable perhaps it was a lack of social capability which made the person act the way they did.

So, if you feel like you’re being stalked or having your conversations eavesdropped on, maybe consider whether that is the case or whether the person just wants to join in but doesn’t know how.

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  • Bronwyn

    Amanda when someone is literally hanging on your every word, I would take that as a sign that you have really made a mark in your industry. There may come a time when you have to take action against this person. I sincerely hope for your sake that it doesn’t come to that.

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