There are few things I enjoy more than intelligent, intimate conversation. I think part of the reason I really enjoy flying is that at a rate of perhaps one out of every eight flight “legs” I have a great conversation. In the past two years I have spoken with a textbook author, two highly successful entrepreneurs, a former American Medical Association president, and several other terribly interesting people without flashy careers.
Tell me this: where else can you have quality, potentially multi-hour conversations and interactions with complete strangers? I find the confinement and relative anonymity causes people to more fully engage in intimate conversations than they would in almost any other medium. In all likelihood you will never see this person again, so why not open up?
I don’t try to talk to every person I sit beside. Sometimes I want to sleep, others study or read, and of course it takes two people to have a conversation. When I feel like talking and they appear to be receptive I will break the ice based on my first impression of the individual. I can usually tell within a minute or two whether or not I want to continue.
My typical goals, in order from most important to least, are A) enjoy the conversation, B) learn something from it, and C) potentially develop a contact. The more interesting the person, the more I make a conscious effort to allow them to do most of the talking. This serves all three purposes simultaneously: A) I quickly become uncomfortable talking about myself, B) I learn more when listening, and C) people generally like talking about themselves.
Since I’ve been flying so much and will be making many more flights as long as I’m in a distance relationship, I think I’ll start posting stories and summaries of these conversations, when they warrant it.