Being an Uber or Lyft driver comes with a dizzying amount of new responsibilities. You have to keep your car pretty clean, keep a close watch on your gas gauge, familiarize yourself with local roadways and short cuts, manage the Lyft and Uber apps, and prepare yourself to interact with an ever-revolving carousel of passengers. With so much to keep track of, it’s easy to see why some drivers may forget to connect with their passengers as people, instead of just another routine ride.
Learning how to read passengers and create meaningful interactions with them is a crucial part of being an Uber or Lyft driver. You’re sharing a relatively small space with people from all walks of life, and you may be surprised what people are willing to share with a stranger – especially on long rides! You can learn a lot from those you meet, so long as you’re polite, learn how to properly read people, and if you show a willingness to listen without judgment.
Trust Your Gut
First impressions are everything. When you first pick up your passenger, greet them warmly and ask how their day is going. By giving them a friendly hello, you’re extending an invitation to see if they’re interested in conversation. However, not every passenger is going to be! There’s nothing wrong with quiet passengers who would rather play on their phones while you drive, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be impolite. Always offer conversation and then pay close attention to how they react.
How To Know If Your Uber Or Lyft Passenger Wants A Quiet Ride
Does your passenger avoid eye contact? Do they look tired or otherwise uncomfortable? Do they tend to give one or two word answers to your questions? Are they wearing headphones or engaged in something on their phone? These are all good signs that your passenger may prefer a quiet ride. You can absolutely ask them simple questions or offer them control of the music, but after that, it’s a good idea to just focus on driving, giving them the space they’re indirectly asking for.
On the other hand, you’ll encounter passengers who do the complete opposite! If your passenger is smiling and eager to engage back and forth in conversation, that’s a plus for you! Absolutely make an effort to multitask driving and talking with your passenger. Not only will they appreciate the connection, but they may have some interesting stories to tell or information about local events.
Bottom line? Pay attention. Always invite your passenger to talk, but be wise enough to interpret how they react to your initial efforts. There is a lot that you can discern from body language, so watch closely!
Show Compassion and Be Open-Minded
One of the most surprising things I encountered when I started driving for both Uber and Lyft was how many passengers were full of inspiring, heartfelt stories. Many were also eager to share their stories. In my first month driving, I met a man trying to reconnect with his gay son after evicting him as a teenager, a woman who was going on an airplane for the first time since she escaped her oppressively religious family, a young man who was struggling to manage a misdiagnosis and a chronic panic disorder, and a girl who crammed my trunk full of her personal belongings so that I could drive her far away from the abusive boyfriend she was finally escaping.
That’s just a few examples, and that was just month one!
Being an Uber or Lyft driver puts you in the unique position of being just close enough to your passengers that they will confide in you all sorts of things, knowing you’ll probably never cross paths again. These passengers may not have anyone else to talk to, or they might be so overwhelmed that they’re looking for any other human being who will give them a few minutes of their time. As a driver, I always felt really lucky to be in that position and to have the opportunity to be both inspired and humbled by the experiences of the people around me. It’s a great experience, but it’s completely relative to your ability to connect with your passengers as someone who is kind, nonjudgmental, and pragmatic.
Remember that even if your passenger does trust you enough to share details with you, you likely have a really limited understanding of what it is they’re going through or the complicated emotions that they may be dealing with. The best thing you can do is just listen, express your sympathy or support where appropriate and, most importantly, never criticize or berate your passenger!
Redirect Difficult Passengers
While being an Uber or Lyft driver, you are going to be exposed to a incredibly diverse group of people. It’s your responsibility to always be polite and respectful, regardless of who you’re traveling with. In my experience, I never had any trouble with passengers pushing political or religious agendas, but you may encounter the occasional person who does want to talk about their opinions on some very touchy subjects.
If a passenger is insistent on airing their opinions or debating a subject that you’re uncomfortable with, politely redirect them if you can. It’s usually easy enough to acknowledge them and then offer up a new line of conversation that’s a bit less volatile. Ask them about where they’re going, for how long they’re visiting, or if they’ve always lived in the area. Generally speaking, you should be able to distract just about anyone into talking about themselves instead, and by doing that, you’ll completely avoid trying to navigate an otherwise tricky or potentially offensive conversation.
In a worst case scenario, or in any situation where you feel unsafe, you may politely inform your passenger that you do not want to discuss the topic. If they continue, you can escalate to calmly warning them that you will end the ride prematurely if they do not stop. Just always make sure to keep your head and remain professional, so as to avoid inviting aggressive behavior and potentially putting yourself in a worse situation than before.