If you’ve traveled by plane at least more than twice, you’ve probably found yourself seated next to a flier who seems to think you were seated next to him or her solely as a means of being their personal conversationalist. Sometimes a small conversation or chit-chat is perfectly fine, and other times you would prefer to be left your book, music, work, or taxes.
These chatty fliers can be especially bothersome on long, international flights, which can lead to additional stress if you’re moving. Hopefully these tips will provide you with some polite ways to turn down your neighbor’s attempts at conversation without crushing their feelings.
1. Use the Power of the Headphones
Headphones have the tremendous power to isolate yourself in a public space. They signal to your neighbor that you’re unavailable and, if they continue talking, allow you to pretend like you can’t hear them. Although headphones won’t necessarily protect you against prods to your shoulder by your neighbor asking you what you’re watching/listening to and sharing their own experiences and/or recommendations/opinions. You can use this time to learn your way around some of the must have travel apps.
2. Feign Sick
Nothing quiets a traveler faster the possibility of contracting an airborne disease like the flu or a cold. This doesn’t mean you have to sneeze on your neighbor. Simply explain to them that you’re just getting over a nasty cold or flu and, for their own sake, probably shouldn’t get too close.
3. The Work Excuse
Just about everyone understands and respects the fact that work can be demanding. Politely tell your Chatty Cathy that you’re swamped with work and it’ll be the end of you if you can’t hunker down and focus. Just don’t follow up their questions of “what do you do” with something contradictory like “I’m unemployed”.
4. The Weary Traveler
This is a good exercise as it appeals to the traveler in them. Tell them that while you would love to hear more about their grand kid’s performance as Tree number 2 in the school play, you’ve spent the last 24 hours in airports getting no sleep and just really need the time to rest and recoup before the next leg of your travels.
This trick isn’t necessarily the most polite–and has the strong possibility of backfiring if you happen to be sitting next to a bilingual–but sometimes pretending like you don’t speak your neighbor’s language can prevent any attempts at conversation. Just make sure you follow through and when the stewardess comes for a drink order don’t ask for “a Manhattan on the rocks and kick the vermouth in the side with a pair of steel-toed boots.”
Traveling isn’t always easy and comfortable, but with these tips you might be able to at least get some semblance of peace and quiet.