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HOW TO END CONVERSATIONS ON A PLANE

The hum of the engines. The anticipation of your destination. The promise of adventure…

…There’s nothing quite like the experience of flying. 

But what happens when you’re trapped in a conversation with a seatmate that you’d rather escape? 

While chatting up a storm with a stranger is harmless, not everyone has the energy to banter back and forth. Some just want to sit back, watch a movie,  sip on a glass of red wine, and enjoy a little peace and quiet.

So the next time you’re flying high and want to nip a conversation in the bud, follow these 8 tips.

1. The Polite Exit Strategy

Let’s start with the basics. 

The key to gracefully ending a conversation on a plane is to do so politely.

Abruptly closing a conversation can be rude, but with a bit of finesse, you can exit without offending anyone. 

A simple “Excuse me, I need to focus on some work” is a way to withdraw from a conversation. Remember to offer a friendly smile as you do it. Chances are, the other person will understand.

2. The Onboard Entertainment

An easy way to cut a conversation short? Use the inflight entertainment system.

Pop in your earphones and dive into a movie, TV show, or your favorite playlist. It sends a clear message that you’re unavailable for conversation. 

You can even have them in (without the sound on), and people won’t talk to you, or you can pretend you don’t hear them.

3. The Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal cues speak volumes. 

If you want to end the conversation, lower your tray table and take out your book, indicating you’re settling in for reading time. 

These subtle actions help create a comfortable boundary without verbal communication.

But if it doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Enjoy your flight. I have some reading I’d like to catch up on.”  

4. The Sleepy Solution

Is your seatmate not taking the hint?

Mention how you can’t wait to sleep.

It’s an excellent way to dodge conversations, especially early on in the flight or after dinner is served.

Close your eyes, recline your seat slightly, and wear an eye mask. It’s all the non-verbal signals you need to disengage without offending.

5. The Busy Bee Approach

Whether you have work or not, it’s always a solid excuse to side-step a conversation on a plane.

Take out your laptop or iPad and excuse yourself from the conversation.

If the person asks what you’re working on, simply reply, “I have a lot to catch up on. I always fall behind on travel days, so I want to use this plane day to get as much done as possible.”

6. The On-the-Go Break

Got the aisle seat?

Use your easy access to the bathroom to your advantage.

You can get up as much as you want and break up the conversation each time.

When you return, you may find your seatmate has started watching a movie and doesn’t restart the conversation.

If that’s not the case, use your return to make it clear you’d like to do something else.

7. The One Word Answer

Sometimes, you don’t have the mental energy or social battery for a conversation.

That’s okay.

One-word answers are a great way of avoiding lengthy discussions.

Why?

You’re not actively engaging in the conversation by asking questions, giving additional personal information, or changing the topic. You’re letting the conversation die out, giving your seatmate a social cue that you want to spend the plane ride in silence.

8. The Open-Ended Goodbye

Sometimes, the best way to end a conversation is to let it taper off naturally. 

You can use phrases like, “It was great talking to you” or “I hope you have a wonderful flight.” 

This leaves the door open for a potential reunion later in the flight while politely signaling that you’re ready for a break.

When It Might Not Be So Bad: How Plane Conversations Can Change Your Life

Now that you have a toolbox of strategies for ending unwanted plane conversations, let’s shift gears.

Sometimes, striking up a chat with a stranger on a plane can lead to unexpected friendships, insights, and even life-changing experiences.

Here are a few reasons why having a conversation on a plane might not be so bad.

Share Travel Tips

Imagine your seatmate is a local from the destination you’re heading to or a seasoned traveler who has visited Paris countless times.

Use the conversation as an opportunity to get tips, recommendations, and insights you won’t find in a guidebook.

These interactions can help you discover hidden gems for your itinerary and add a layer of unpredictability to make your journey exciting and memorable. 

Who knows? You might take detours, try new foods, or attend a festival you didn’t know anything about before sitting in your seat.

New Friendships

You never know.

The person sitting next to you on the plane could become a lifelong friend.

Maybe you’re both spending the semester abroad in Barcelona or heading to the same music festival in Germany.

Whatever it is, the bond you create during the flight can lead to a lasting connection, but you’ll need to strike up a conversation first.

Networking Opportunities

For business travelers, plane conversations can be a goldmine for networking. 

You never know who you might meet and what opportunities may come your way. 

Exchanging contact information can open doors to new partnerships and business collaborations.

Inspiration and Motivation

Life-changing conversations often begin with a simple exchange of words. 

The person beside you might have an incredible life story or share why supporting a cause means so much to them. 

These stories can inspire and motivate you to pursue your own aspirations or help you put your life into perspective.

And if you’re a journalist, it might give you an excellent angle for your next article.

Wrapping It Up

While unwanted plane conversations can sometimes be a challenge, it’s important to recognize the potential value in these interactions. 

You never know what you might gain from chatting with a fellow traveler. 

So, while having your polite exit strategies is essential, don’t close yourself off completely. Embrace the opportunity to connect, learn, and potentially change your life, one flight at a time.