This week, I traveled to Boston to lead a Bud To Boss Workshop for first time supervisors. On my return trip, I connected with a flight in Chicago.
I ran between gates to catch the flight to Indianapolis only to wait at the gate because this flight — like the one I had just taken from Boston to Chicago — was delayed.
Upon boarding the plane, I settled into my seat beside a nice young woman who was also connecting on this flight, and I made a comment about the commuter jet we were on not being built to accommodate people of my height. She replied with a soft laugh, and we struck up a conversation that lasted until we landed in Indianapolis.
During the conversation, I learned that she had gone to school in Indiana and that she now lived out-of-state as a result of her husband's job. I also learned that through her husband she knew a fairly prominent public figure, and I asked a question about this person's public versus private persona's. She responded kindly. I acknowledged her response, and the conversation took another turn.
Seeing each other again at baggage claim, we waved and said good-bye. I enjoyed our conversation and the opportunity to meet this rather interesting person.
My wife picked me up, and I told her about the nice young woman I had met on the plane. Arriving at home, my wife went to bed, and I stayed up a bit to unwind from the trip.
While I checked my email, I began to get curious about the full connection between the person I met and the prominent public figure. With less than two minutes of searching on Google, I learned that she was the prominent figure's daughter-in-law.
Reflecting on our conversation, I was really happy that I had not said anything derogatory, negative, or judgmental about her father-in-law. Like many public figures, he has a strong personality that can create both strong allies and strong detractors, and it would be easy to pass judgment on him as a person because of his public persona.
In the days that have passed since my interchange on the plane with a person I will likely never see again, I am pleased that I both remembered and followed advice I received long ago:
You never know what the person you just met may have experienced or who they might know. So, just be nice.