How to Handle a Chatty Seatmate

by Anglo Brampton Travel -

After the stress of checking in, going through security and piling onto the plane, it’s a sigh of relief to finally be onboard, phone off, with no one to disturb you and your dreams of paradise. But what do you do when your seat neighbor turns out to be a complete Chatty Cathy?

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m generally very good natured, love to talk, and have no qualms with interacting with strangers. It’s just that I consider the airplane ride “me-time” - for sleep, work, catching up on my reading, etc. I’m sure many travelers are with me on this one, right?

Over the years of frequent flying, I have developed a set well-tested of non-verbal cues to give these over-enthusiastic seat mates the hint when I’d rather not chat.

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Be Mysterious
On normal circumstances you might welcome a few innocent exchanges. But if you’re not in the mood for a chit-chat, it’s better to respond with just a few words. Answers like “Uh huh,” “I don’t think so” or “I really don’t know” to a long and probing inquiry would discourage people from throwing you a bunch of more questions.

Wear headphones
If you’re wearing headphones and humming to the melody, you’re sending signals that you’re not interested in trading life stories.

However, if your neighbor still attempts to engage you, keep one ear bud on during the conversation. This gives off the impression that you’d rather listen to Lady Gaga on your iPod than talk about how your neighbor misses her cuddly pets at home.

For added effect: Shake your head to the beat to show that you’re absorbed in the music and now’s not the time to distract you.

Grab a book or Magazine
Read a book, magazine or anything that has words on it. Even if you’re not, pretend like you’re hooked.

Nicholas DeRenzo of Budget Travel, advises:

“Keep your reading materials open to the page you were reading before being interrupted. This says: I am only temporarily chatting with you, but I fully intend to get back to Harry Potter the second you stop talking.”

Keep busy
Open your laptop and start typing. If they ask what you’re writing, say that it’s something important for work.

Explore your iPhone. If you constantly look at your phone, play on your apps, check on the reminders - it will give your talkative seat mate an idea that you’re a busy person not to be disturbed.

Act Sleepy
The final act. Some passengers just can’t accept “no” for an answer. They continue to prod despite my best efforts to stave them off. So before they go off on a long speech, I pull off the sleeping-beauty trick. I rub my eyes and blink hard a couple of times, then covering my mouth, as if to suppress a yawn, I say a quick “I’m sorry”.

Sometimes I go to the extent of stretching my arms up to complete the whole act. I don’t even have to say it, they’d usually shoo me to freedom – err—sleep!

Or, you just actually fall asleep. When you wake up ideally they’ll have found something else to put their energies into, meaning you can quickly transition into your own activity.

Just Say It!
If your non-verbal cues just aren’t coming across, the time has come to just say it. Be polite, but firm: “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be rude but I really need to read something important.”

Keeping your voice calm and say it with a smile. The last thing you want is tension for the rest of the flight.

Good luck!

(photo credit: shyb/Flickr)

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