Small Talk: Starting a Conversation While Traveling


With a record number of travelers this holiday season, many people find themselves sitting next to others on airplanes, at airports and at other functions. They want to talk with them but struggle to know what to say.

Start by making a statement about something you have in common, such as the long wait or the great view outside. Then ask a question. For example, "That's a beautiful sunset out there! Do you often fly at this time of day?" Follow it up with an open-ended question, such as "What's your favorite time to fly?"

In an airport, you can comment on the lines or the new security procedures, both of which are likely to get a response form someone else. Start by saying, "This line seems to be (finally) moving! Have you been in any other lines this long elsewhere in the airport today?" Then follow it up with "What do you think is the best domestic airline to fly?"

Be sensitive to others who do not want to talk. Some people want to work or sleep, for example, or prefer not to talk to strangers. Others may not speak much English, have a hearing loss, or difficulty speaking clearly. But many do want to talk, and just aren't sure how to start.

To end a conversation, give a reason why you need to stop. For example, "It's been nice talking to you. I need to do some work now." or "I hear my flight being called. Bye!"

Airport or airplane conversations can let you meet people you might otherwise never know. For safety reasons, be very cautious about giving out personal information. Most conversations, though, are casual and you are not likely to see the person again. But while you are together, make the most of it!