Lessons from a plane ride

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You may never guess it, but you can learn a lot while riding on a plane.

Most people just blow right past social etiquette.  It’s like those unspoken “rules” and understandings just don’t apply when you’re sitting beside someone on a plane.  It’s a strange phenomenon.

When you break social rules, people feel awkward.  It’s tough to build significant relationships if you ignore them.  And if you’re convinced that your message is worth sharing, take note of the below “rules.”  If you’re not convinced your message is worth sharing, please quit reading and go find a better message.

8 rules I learned while riding on a plane

Don’t be the guy that’s always late.

It’s okay to be late occasionally.  But when you being late causes everybody else’s life to be placed on hold, you quickly become the enemy in the room.

Don’t be the guy that always complains.

I get it…life’s tough.  Yours is, and so is mine.  Quit whining and move on.  Take responsibility for your growth and begin moving in the right direction.  If you need help, ask.  But don’t just complain.

Don’t be the guy that talks incessantly.

Learn to shut your mouth.  Being a good friend means listening, too.  If I know your whole life story and you don’t even know my name…something’s out of balance.

Don’t be the guy that’s always slamming pop culture.

If you hate it that much, just stop talking about it.  Nobody else despises it as much as you do, and you’re just alienating people.

Think seriously about how you’re going to introduce yourself.

On one leg of my flight, the lady beside me opened with, “I have to warn you. I will probably kick you on this flight.”  Not a great way to say hello.  Being friendly goes a long way in building a relationship.

Don’t be the guy that turns every single conversation back to “Jesus.”

Jon Acuff refers to this as the “Jesus juke,” turning a normal conversation into a spiritual moment of shame.  Just enjoy someone’s company.  There are times to interject comments, stories, and experiences that help people understand who you are and who Jesus is.  But if we’re talking about sports, don’t shame me for watching football instead of reading my Bible.

Don’t be the guy that farts on a plane.

Farting on a plane is like the ultimate dutch oven.  For everyone on the plane.


Don’t be the guy that eats a hard-boiled egg on a plane.

It smells bad.  It looks weird.  And dredging your egg through salt on your tiny napkin is just strange.

Building relationships is tough work.  Don’t make it harder by breaking these rules.  Whether you’re working online in social media or sharing your faith or trying to build influence or investing in your small group ministry, relationships matter.

Ever broken any of these social “rules”?

What other social “no-no” rules would you add?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    Nice list! I would have to add- “Don’t be the guy who dances in the middle of the aisle!” :)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Whoa…have you seen that before?!?

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        No. I wish though! haha That would be really funny!

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    PS- the link you have for my site on the blog roll is no longer in existence…you added it when my site was first out.

    The “Amplifying God’s Kingdom” is now: http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com. Just thought I’d let ya know…

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      My bad, Brandon. It’s done now.

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    Gotta love those wonderful plane lessons. I don’t mind it so much on shorter flights, but the 7-9 hour flights I take to Europe each year…I have learned a LOT of lessons on those. 

    I think I would add:
    Don’t fall sleep on someone else
    Make sure you don’t stink (the joy of flying to Europe, their hygiene isn’t always as good as ours. ICK)
    Be polite to the flight attendants. Your plane ride will be hell if you keep pissing them off. 

  • Eddiecberry

    Never, ever, cut your fingernails or toe nails on a plane.  A guy across the aisle from me did that on a flight to Austin last year.