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The cnn.com article: how to listen to strangers

Have you had a conversation on an airplane? And I’m not talking about the one going on in your head after you sit down: “Please don’t let that huge guy sit next to me”, “Oh man, please don’t talk to me, I just want to read”, “Do I have correct change to buy some pretzels and rent a blanket?”

Recently, a reporter from cnn.com asked about times where strangers had told me things about themselves. I thought to myself, “this happens to me all the time - especially on planes”. In fact, one of the reasons I started Avocationist was to have an excuse to talk to strangers about their lives.

I love hearing people’s stories. I find something unique and interesting in everyone. And on a plane, we don’t know each other. We won’t see each other again. It’s a great place to share and learn. Trust comes easily.

I’ve met some fascinating people in the air: an NFL referee who is the principal of a high school during the week (where he himself graduated); a man named Allan Bacon (no kidding) who imports specialty teas; the mom of an NC State basketball starter; and, a woman in her 40s who was making her first trip ever outside of Alaska (not Sarah Palin).

If you want to learn how to listen to strangers, here are some phrases you can use to get the ball rolling. A friendly smile helps, too:

• “do you live in [city you are leaving or headed to]?
• “are you traveling for work?”
• “What type of work do you do?”

I guarantee that you'll get a polite answer to these questions - and most of the time, a conversation will get started. If they keep the conversation going, feel free to see where it heads. Let your curiosity guide you.

Click here to see the cnn.com story.

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