DEAR HARRIETTE: While on a flight with my small children, the man seated directly in front of us was watching a violent and provocative film. My children were looking at his screen and becoming upset. I asked him to turn off this action flick for something more appropriate, but he didn't oblige. When I called a flight attendant, she said there was nothing she could do. Was the man being rude by not changing his movie to something appropriate for everyone who could see his screen? -- Rated G, Please, Dallas
DEAR RATED G, PLEASE: The passenger seated in front of you was being insensitive rather than rude. From his perspective, he was not even seated next to you, so he likely thought he was far enough away to be separated from you and your children. Yes, it would have been thoughtful for him to turn it off, but the flight attendant was right. He was not obligated to do so.
What you should do when you travel is to bring along books, electronic devices, arts and crafts activities and anything else that is self-contained that can engage and, when necessary, distract your children from surrounding influences. You can also tell them to look away when they see images on TV or otherwise that are distasteful or too grown up. It is never too early to teach them the art of looking away.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have created new technology software that benefits existing tech companies. I have begun to attend events in my girlfriend’s circle, and I constantly get asked what I do. I explain that I work in software, but this usually leads to curious questions about specifics, usually followed by an “I don’t get it.” I honestly don't want to explain software that’s taken years to develop in five minutes, but I don’t want to leave a negative impression on people I want to impress. How do I steer the conversation away from work? -- Long-Winded, Seattle
DEAR LONG-WINDED: In most social situations, people like best to talk about themselves. In order to not get bogged down in conversation that turns out to be confusing for people, fine-tune a simple statement that explains what you do, then say it and pivot to a question asking what that person does. Normally, the shift is easy because people enjoy telling their stories. You can also pivot to talking about your girlfriend.
What you will likely find is that only people who are truly curious about technology and have some basic knowledge of it will engage you in more detail about your work. In those cases, it will probably be easier for you to engage in a meaningful way because you will have some common point of entry in the conversation. Even in this situation, remember to be a good listener as this will help you to stay in the flow of the conversation more naturally.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)