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If even Oprah can’t handle airplane small talk, should we all just give up and become introverts?


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Photo: Getty Images/Karwai Tang

Everyone has their self-care priorities when traveling. For some, it’s getting a window seat for uninterrupted sleep, and for other’s it’s being able to get some blood-flowing steps in up and down the aisle throughout the flight. Oprah Winfrey’s number-one must, though? Keeping chatting to a minimum. And while she has that luxury now, it wasn’t always the case.

Back when Winfrey was first getting recognized, she took plenty of commercial flights—and having a rude traveler call her out for her desire to stay quiet and relaxed pre-flight was enough to make her completely switch up mode of transportation. “There are days when I’m more open and warm than others. One of the things that actually caused me in 1991 to get my own plane, I was in the airport and I was just minding my own business and a woman came up and she said, ‘You’re not acting like you do on TV,'” she told British Vogue.

“If I’m in an airport, I’m not necessarily hugging people, okay?” —Oprah Winfrey

Yes, Winfrey is the queen of connection—and deep, soulful conversations—but she’s traveling, she just likes to do what everyone else does: Zen out in peace. “If I’m in an airport, I’m not necessarily hugging people, okay?” she says. And that’s common for anyone, famous or not: in one survey, 83 percent of travelers said sharing a quick hello and a smile with their airplane seatmate was fine, but 42 percent didn’t want to have a full-on convo.

But if you are up for some small talk, it might be worth a try: studies have shown those small interactions not only give your social and emotional well-being a boost, but they can benefit your brain, too. And if you strike up a friendship (score!), more research shows that BFF time can make you a whole lot healthier—improving biomarkers for inflammation, body mass index, abdominal weight, and blood pressure. And hey, if you change your mind and want to go the Oprah-approved route (for anything in life, let’s be honest, this isn’t a bad bet), here’s a solution that doesn’t involve buying your own personal plane: chic, noise-canceling headphones.

Here are four simple rules to never miss a flight. Or find out the hacks flight attendants use to drink more water on planes.

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