Q: When I’m on a plane, I prefer to be left alone, so I don’t like it when my seatmate tries to engage me in conversation. Last month, I was trying to read, and the woman next to me wouldn’t stop talking. I kept my responses brief, but she didn’t take the hint. What’s an inoffensive way to cut off such an annoying chatterbox?
A: Anyone who keeps talking after you’ve exhausted all the obvious signals needs to have it spelled out in no uncertain terms. You might smile and say, “I’d like to chat, but I really need to use this time to read. Thanks for understanding.” You can then reinforce your plea by burying yourself in your book. Another tactic is to put on the headphones. Whatever track you take, try to be gracious to your fellow traveler. Nonstop chatting may be annoying, but it’s just a friendly gesture-and a time may come when you’ll welcome the contact.