Shortly after sitting down on a recent Southwest Airlines flight, I remarked to the woman sitting next to me, “I have been a vegetarian for 20 years, but I have to tell you, your hamburger smells delicious!” She laughed and we started to talk. During our conversation she asked if I wanted drink coupons, as she had extras. I accepted the offer. What a nice benefit to talking to your seatmate.
As I was enjoying my glass of wine, I looked closely at the remaining coupons and realized that they included tips on how to start a conversation. It made my day! Since I teach etiquette, I am always pleased when companies provide suggestions.
The Southwest “Conversation Starters” were questions you could ask the person sitting next to you, like “When was the first time you flew Southwest Airlines? Where did you go?”
In addition to using questions, you can also use the following suggestions. These examples can be used on planes…and just about everywhere else.
Make a self-revelation. My statement about being a vegetarian was an example of a self- revelation. Keep all comments relevant and positive.
Comment on your surroundings. “I just read that book. It’s great. I promise I won’t tell you the ending.”
Give a sincere compliment. "That’s a gorgeous coat. Did you buy it on your trip?"
And if the person doesn’t respond to your conversation starter, don’t take it personally and don’t keep trying. Your seatmate may really need some sleep!