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Awesome Etiquette: Having Your Own Time While Traveling

When you travel, you are absolutely allowed to ask a stranger to stop talking if you'd rather spend the time reading or listening to music. Human attention is a gift, no one can demand from you.

When we travel alone, odds are you will end up sitting with a stranger. If a seatmate wants to talk and you'd rather spend the time reading or listening to music, is there are way to gracefully end the conversation?

I was looking forward to tuning out and relaxing for the three-hour flight. I quickly took my seat on the plane and promptly plugged my headphones. The lady next to me complimented me and I returned the nicety. However, I found myself stuck in a conversation with the woman that spanned the entire flight. I sent plenty of cues both verbal and nonverbal [that I wanted quiet time] but couldn't get her to stop. I could tell she was nervous and I think talking was calming her down but it ruined my flight. Was there something else I could do to let her know I wasn't interested in talking for three hours?


Not A Chatty Cathy

This really is one of the classic etiquette questions and it boils down to two choices. 

Option A

You recognize the conversation is calming this other person down and you say, "OK I'm helping someone else right now and I'm going to feel good about it."

Option B

Get blunt and ask her to stop talking to you. You should not feel obligated to do option A. When someone doesn't pick up on your cues that you don't want to talk and they are a stranger to you, you aren't obligated to just roll over and play nice. 

"Was there something else I could do to let her know I wasn't interested in talking for three hours?"

You can be direct and say, "ma'am, this has been lovely but I'm going to listen to my podcast now enjoy some quiet." Then put on your headphone, close your eyes and stop responding.

When you do this, it's not as if you are being uncivil or rude. You have the license to put up a polite boundary and stick to it.  Remember, you are allowed to set your boundaries and human attention is a gift no one can demand from you.

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