In my business as a speaker, it’s super important that I understand how people process their life and work situations. By knowing more about what makes them tick, why they do what they do, and how they think, I’m in a better position to help them create positive changes in their lives. Not changes that last only a day – or a week – or two, and then are gone. Changes that stick.
That’s why I like to talk to the people around me, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. One place I’ve found to be great for this is when I’m traveling by plane.
For instance, on a recent flight, I noticed the woman sitting next to me was eating chocolates, so I joked with her, saying, “Wow! I have the right seat.” At which point she revealed that she never traveled without chocolates or water.
Some way or another, our conversation led to her telling me she was currently living in the Traverse City, Michigan area and talking about how beautiful it is there in the summertime. During the course of the flight, I also learned she was a farmer who, in addition to enjoying yoga, spent her days growing organic veggies and raising hormone-free cattle.
We had a wonderful conversation that helped me understand her as a human being, giving me knowledge I could apply to help future audience members who may have the same types of experiences or interests. It was also much more fun than sitting in my seat and passing the time watching a movie. Instead of passively consuming entertainment, we bonded and connected, both of us walking away happier and more knowledgeable as a result.
I’ve done the same thing on other trips, too – and not just with passengers. One time I was getting on a plane and, upon seeing two pilots sitting in their seats, I felt the urge to look at them and say, “Wait…who’s flying the plane?” Instead, I smiled and decided to shut up. I did admit to them that I had a stupid joke which I’d ultimately decided not to share.
Apparently, it was written all over my face, because they said they saw my whole thought process. This introduction led to a conversation about an airline pilot’s life, which is completely fascinating to me. I also learned that the dad of the guy seated next to me was a pilot too, one who flew B52s.
Like the conversation with the woman on my previous flight, my conversation with him led into other areas. I learned that my seatmate was a pathologist who studied cancer cells and had an interesting home life. After talking the entire flight, he said, “This is the best ride I’ve taken. Thank you so much.” I felt the same.
Creating bonds with others not only passes the time during potentially boring situations, it gives us a new perspective on life, from someone who has had different experiences than us. When applied correctly, it can help us become better people, both personally and professionally, because we have a greater understanding of how the human mind works.