Get People Talking
Everyone has a story to tell. When you get people talking about themselves and their unique experiences, they experience being special around you. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people who met total strangers, had a brief conversation, and those strangers became important allies, significant connections, and dearest friends.
My fellow frequent flyers are going to hate me for this. But still, I invite you to try this. When you’re sitting next to someone on a plane or a bus or in a restaurant, turn to her, ask permission—“May I ask you something?”—and then and ask a few open-ended questions with the potential to reveal something unique about the person. An open ended question begins with one of these words: who, what, where, when, how, why. I always advise asking for who and what first.
Maybe she’ll shrug you off. But maybe she’ll take the bait and tell you something that is unique, special, and even unexpected. And just maybe you will walk away with a great story to tell. And maybe she will too . . . about a total stranger who asked the most interesting questions
And if it’s you who winds up with an inquisitive seatmate on an airplane, and you don’t want to click (which I totally understand and have no problem with, really!), give him a reason, any reason, and ask for his understanding. Even a reason that’s no reason at all, but sounds like a reason. All you have to politely say is, “Sorry, I don’t really want to talk because I just want to be quiet for awhile. I hope you’ll understand.” Then, even though you’re not talking with the person, your considerate response to his attempt to start a conversation is likely to get you a positive silence instead of a hostile neighbor. If you change your mind later in the flight, he’ll still be receptive, too.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.