Have you ever sat next to someone on a plane, train, bus, in a waiting area, at a conference or at work and not said a word to them? Why do you think this happens? Is it that we genuinely don’t think to speak to them? Is it that we can’t be bothered? Or could it be fear?
What if, just once, you struck up a conversation, and that conversation had a really big impact on your life? Well that’s what happened to me…
About four years ago, I travelled back to the UK from a conference in Barcelona. It was a Friday evening flight, it had been a long week and it was the first time I’d been away from my kids (then three and five) for more than a night.
I wasn’t in the mood to make small talk with people I liked, let alone a stranger, and I was desperate to get back to familiar surroundings. I stood next to this guy in the queue to board the plane and he must have chatted to me first, because clearly in my “friendly” state of mind I wasn’t going to instigate the conversation.
As it was more than four years ago, I don’t remember all the specifics of the conversation. What I do remember vividly is the impact he made on me. We talked for the entire length of the flight to Birmingham, chatting about our fields of work, current and past, our kids, our partners and even our hobbies.
This guy seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. He asked questions to learn more and he added value where he could without forcing an opinion on me.
His appetite for his job really inspired me. He was one of those few people who’d integrated his passion into his career. He clearly loved what he did and embraced it to the full. I wanted that same enthusiasm for my role and my future, and I wanted to have this same positive impact on the people I met.
Back at Birmingham airport we exchanged business cards and I drove home in a completely different frame of mind. I’d spoken to a random “guy on the plane”, enjoyed the conversation, and felt valued and inspired!
The impact didn’t stop there. A few days later I received an email from the “guy on the plane” with some great reading suggestions relating to the topics I’d shared with him.
This positive impact has stayed with me for years, so much so that I’ve shared this story with many of my close friends and family. They all now refer to him as “aeroplane man”!
Fast forward four years and I found myself at a crossroads in my career. A mutual friend introduced me to James Farrow at Curium Solutions about potential opportunities.
Would you believe it? James is the “guy from the plane”.
I’d worked for my previous employer, Mars UK, for 15 years and leaving them behind was a big change. But, the lasting impression and the positive impact from the “guy on the plane” was too huge to ignore.
I’m now three weeks in to a new career working within the Learning Team at Curium. If I hadn’t have spoken to that “guy on the plane” all those years ago, would I still have made the same choice to join?
Some might call it fate, some might find it strange and some might call it just simply being polite. Whatever you call it, that aeroplane chat led to great new opportunities for me.
So, the next time you are sitting next to a random stranger, think about what opportunities might arise by just saying hello! Okay, you might not get a new career out of it, but you could learn something new, or at the very least make a positive impact upon a person who wasn’t expecting it that day.
Jo joined Curium in January 2017. Find out more about Jo in her Curium profile.