How Do You Silence the Chatterbox Sitting Next to You on a Flight?

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Confession time: I’ve been the chatty seatmate on the airplane.

SmarterTravel recently published a column about how to quiet down a seatmate who chats away like a 10-year-old at a slumber party. Sure, you can try social cues — staring intently into a book, wearing ear buds — but what if that doesn’t end the monologue, SmarterTravel columnist Caroline Costello asks. Also, those “cues” can hurt your seatmate’s feelings.

I know that from experience.

My Chatty Cathy impersonation came about several years ago when I was unexpectedly bumped into business class on a flight to Germany. The airline employee who gave me the free upgrade said she did so because I was so pleasant.

Now, really, I didn’t chat her up for a better seat. When she gave me one, though, it sent my usual loquaciousness into overdrive.

One icy blast of eye contact from the businessman seated next to me left no doubt that it was time to shut down the happy chat.

Now that I have lived a few more years and traveled many more miles, I understand where the businessman was coming from. But surely there must be a kinder, gentler way to get your seatmate to pipe down than to fix them with a death stare.

Costello asked etiquette consultant Jay Remer, who said:

People need to have enough self-confidence in themselves to be able to say how they feel about something without self-doubt. If someone is bugging you, say, “I just want some time to myself.” [If you] give a reason why, make sure it has nothing to do with the other person. Because we’re human beings, we tend to take things personally every chance we get.

If a survey by TravelLeadersGroup.com is on point, you likely haven’t tried that direct approach. Just over 10 percent of respondents to the group’s survey had.

And speaking as a sometimes clueless Chatty Cathy, I will say the direct approach would be kinder, and likely more effective, than the you’re-an-idiot stare, too.

Have you had a chatty seatmate you wanted to silence? Were you a chatty seatmate someone else fixed with a stare? Tell us about your experience below or on our Facebook page.

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  • jrwells5

    Only had a “Chatty Cathy” seatmate once, many years ago on a flight from NY to California. I put down my newspaper, looked at him and said, “You don’t plan to do this all the way to California, do you?” Nice & quiet thereafter.

  • cybrarian_ca

    I speak 3 languages. Sometimes, when I want to shut someone up, I just pretend I don’t speak English by saying so, in another language, so it’s clear enough that I supposedly speak no English. Then I hope like crazy that the other person doesn’t speak French or German…. Other than that, a simple “I am sorry, but I really don’t feel up to talking, thanks” and then both plugging in my earphones and opening a book works.