I recently took a trip with four of my best friends to Denver Colorado. The trip was a great experience but the social encounter that took place during my flight was something I’d like to share.
I arrived in Miami on the day of my flight only to be greeted by a delay. But instead of looking at this in a negative way, I decided it would be a great time to read my new book. After knocking out 40 pages, they began to call passengers for my flight.
I never wait in the absurd lines and have absolutely zero problem being the last one to board the plane, so instead I people watch. I see all of the passengers rush to a line where they have to do more waiting. Expressions of the passengers vary, some excited to get on the plane, some look exhausted and some are extremely frustrated with their crying children.
Then I see a man and a woman sitting near me engaged in what looked to be an extremely interesting conversation.
I say “extremely interesting” not because I knew the subject matter they were discussing, in fact I had zero idea what was being said; but I say “extremely interesting” because of their body language, the level of eye contact they displayed and the nonverbal intimacy that the conversation stirred in their physical demeanor. I could tell each participant was engaged in the conversation and genuinely cared for what the other was saying just by how they acted.
After watching them for about 45 seconds the man extended his hand forward to the woman, they shook hands, walked away and the gentleman proceeded to stand in line for the same flight I was on.
I thought nothing more of what I had just seen.
After reading about 10 more pages the line had dwindled down to 3 people and I decided I could join.
I get on the plane and glance at each person I pass by, find my seat and realize that I will be sitting next to the man that I had just witnessed speaking to the woman about 5 minutes ago. As I sat down we said nothing to each other. I settled my belongings and got as comfortable as possible before takeoff.
I knew that I wanted to figure out who this guy was. I was curious as to what he was discussing so passionately with that woman. Did they even know each other? But I knew I had no good reason that would allow me to ask without making me come across as a nosy punk.
So instead I drew the conclusion that I would have to find a way to initiate dialogue that would get him to open up about who he is and what he does.
I knew what I had to do, now it was time to execute.
So as the flight attendant demonstrates how to operate the emergency oxygen mask, I whisper “this is my favorite part”, to which he responded with a chuckle and short conversation on how passengers would actually react if a disaster were to happen as opposed to how they are “supposed” to act according to the flight attendant.
I knew that it would be far easier now to continue conversing now that the first words had been uttered, so I didn’t let too much time pass before speaking again and asking him where he was from.
He was from Utah and leaving Miami because his cruise had come to an end and it was time for him to go back to work. I sympathized with him and expressed the difficulty that most of us experience after returning to work after a week of PTO. I then saw the window of opportunity to ask him what he did for a living, he owned a franchise of a cruise planning business. Demonstrating curiosity, I asked him what he would do to attract new business and retain clients.
I told him I was no marketing expert by any means but it was my major in college and I had great familiarity with the subject.
He told me he implemented a lot of direct email/phone marketing tactics that I know many sales professionals use; since I am one. After hearing about his marketing efforts I asked him if he had ever considered the behaviors of his buyers.
His response was a look that told me he wanted more information before answering. So before he spoke I provided more context. I mention how in one of my core marketing classes at Florida Gulf Coast University, I learned how much time and money enterprises invested in learning about the behaviors of their customers so that they could strategically place their messages in places they knew their customers would be based on their behaviors.
Judging by his response it wasn’t something he never heard of but it was something he never thought of applying to his business. I had just given him a valid marketing suggestion. We talked further on the topic and after exhausting marketing, we discussed the actual cruises themselves.
Fast forward 3 hours, I knew we would be landing soon so I asked him for a favor. Every time I travel I carry my personal journal with me and when I come across someone who becomes a significant part of my travel experience I ask them to write something in it. So given the fact that we spoke for about 2 hours and established great business rapport, I thought it wouldn’t be too outrageous to ask.
He did as I asked and I thanked him. After getting his contact information, I told him I never read entries in front of my guest writers and would read it at another time so that’s what I did.
Since I had to wait 4 hours for my friends to land and pick me up in their rental, I spent the last hour waiting at a local diner where I got a snack and some coffee. While scrolling on my phone I completely forgot about my journal and what the man had written it in. Once I realized that I had forgotten this, I quickly grabbed and unzipped my backpack, opened the journal and found the page he had written on.
I was amazed by what he wrote.
In a nut shell he told me he was impressed. He was impressed by my business knowledge, maturity and ability to speak. All of which he thought to be rare given the fact that I was 23 year old recent college grad and only had 13 months of professional work experience. He also told me that I had obviously made some good choices in life and that he knew I would be successful. Further, he told me what he believed to be the two things essential for a happy life; a good wife and a loving family.
I was so humbled by what he had written that I emailed him, he emailed back. Then I emailed him with one of my friends contact info who was interested in a cruise.
Who knew this gentleman and I would click the way we did? How did we go from strangers to business colleagues? How did it happen so fast?
This is why I encourage everyone to meet people. Get out there and shake hands. Who knows, you may never see the person again but next time you’re on a plane, standing in a line, getting coffee, just remember, you have no idea who the person next to you is, what resources they have access to and most importantly how they can impact your life.