Harry here. There’s a lot more that goes into rideshare driving than just driving, although that’s important too. But if you really want those high ratings and tips, you have to go that extra mile. This doesn’t mean you need to buy anything fancy, or hand out water bottles and candy. Highly rated rideshare drivers do this one thing – and it’s free.

    It’s called being a great rideshare conversationalist. So how can you become a great rideshare conversationalist who gets high ratings and more tips? Senior RSG contributor John Ince covers 9 key ways you can become a great rideshare conversationalist here.


    Lately we’ve been reading a lot about the downsides of being an Uber or Lyft driver. However, somehow the rideshare companies keep new drivers flowing into the pipeline. Obviously the chance to supplement your income is the key factor for most, but after two years as a driver, I’ve discovered there are other compelling aspects to this gig that keep me on the road.

    For me, the most interesting part of the job is the opportunity to engage complete strangers in conversation.  For many drivers, the passenger interactions is what keeps them behind the wheel – especially for retirees.  But starting and keeping a good conversation going isn’t always easy. In fact, at times it can be a real challenge. Here’s my list of do’s and don’ts for a rideshare driver in conversations with passengers. Hopefully these help you and boost your driver ratings as well!

    To get high ratings and tips, you don't have to bribe your passengers with candy and water - but you should be a good rideshare conversationalist -

    Ease Into the Conversation

    Size up the passenger with a safe subject. The value of talking about the weather is that it gives you important information about the emotional state of the passenger.  The tone of their voice gives you vital cues as to their emotional state.

    Find out what’s on their mind by asking something like, “How’s your day / night been going so far?” Let circumstances dictate the subject of the conversation. If the weather has been beautiful, mention it and let the passenger build upon your comments.  If you’re stuck in traffic, talk about the traffic and give the passenger an opportunity to share their stories about bad traffic.

    Establish the Tone of the Ride Early

    The best time to establish the tone of the conversation is right when the passenger gets in your car.  The degree of control you establish will be in your tone of voice. The simple greeting, “how’s it goin’?” can be either very inviting to the passenger, or it can be a warning signal – depending entirely on your tone.  If you want the ride to go smoothly, start it off on the right foot.

    Of course, if your passenger is complaining about something before anything else is said, that’s an entirely different matter, and it has to be dealt with using different tools and tone. Express appreciation for little things. If a passenger closes the door gently then mention it. If they are right on time, thank them for it. If they are friendly and positive, return the favor.

    Give the Passenger Space

    If a passenger wants to be alone with their smartphone, that’s their prerogative.  Be grateful for the break.  The silence gives you an opportunity to regroup. Offer up the option for music and leave it at that.  Sometimes it’s best to just let the music speak for itself.

    Keep the Conversation Casual, Friendly and Civil

    For starters, never interrupt –  it’s a sure way to take a conversation south. The only possible exceptions are when when you need to have information immediately, like for directions.

    Be polite but not submissive. Disagree only if it matters in the context of the ride. You never win an argument, and you never lose in a conversation. Passengers know when you’re forcing conversation.  Passengers know when you’re using a formulaic approach to human interaction.

    When you find yourself getting angry on the job, take a few minutes off. Get out of the car. Go for a walk and stretch your legs. Take a few deep breaths, and remember try to stay positive. Sometimes it’s best to take a longer break from driving. When your anger or hurt about something becomes debilitating, you need to get off the road rather than risk a confrontation with a passenger, because confrontation can lead to de-activation.

    Recognize When There’s Tension in the Air

    If you’re starting to feel tension with the passenger or because of other aspects (navigation or traffic) of the ride, I’ve discovered a trick – open the window.  There’s something about feeling the fresh air on your face that relaxes people. Of course, don’t do this if you’re stuck in traffic with people honking their horns or if it’s frigid/boiling outside.But if you in the ‘burbs or a quiet road, there’s nothing like feeling the wind in your face to shift the tone of a conversation.

    Just asking the passenger if they want the window down or up often establishes trust, letting them know that you’re attentive to their desires. 90% of the time opening the window will also help ventilate the conversation.

    Take Conversational Risks – It Makes Life More Interesting

    If something is really on your mind, chance it. Human connections are complex affairs, but almost every human being recognizes when another is hurting. If you’re hurting about something, your passenger will feel something. If you keep it inside, it may create unstated tension.

    This one will likely be controversial, but I’ve learned that the best conversations I’ve had were the riskiest. However, don’t take stupid conversational risks. Especially humor! Use humor sparingly. Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Humor often rests on a sense of shared values or perspective.  What you think is funny may not be shared by your passenger.

    I can’t emphasize this enough: stay away from humor that could offend anyone. Avoid it like the plague – unless you want to risk an angry note from the passenger or even de-activation.

    Keep Things Positive

    As human beings we generally react best to positive people and positive conversations. But before you go all Pollyanna on your passenger, try to get a mood reading on the passenger. “Ain’t Life Grand”-type intros generally don’t go over well with stressed out techies who just want to get from A to B quickest.

    If you do find someone who’s totally stressed out about something, be a listener – to the extent you have the bandwidth. Try to understand why they’re feeling they way they are.  It’s not your job to be a shrink, but it can keep the job more interesting.  Keep a pulse on your own mood.  If other people’s troubles are starting to get you down, then simply don’t feed the conversation. A conservation without fuel is a conversation that will soon die. Be aware when negativity is creeping in.

    Figure Out What You Have in Common

    This sometimes will require a little poking around, but remember there’s one thing you have in common with all passengers: you both use Uber (or Lyft). Curiously, some of the best conversations I’ve had were all about the platform and the company. Sharing rideshare stories is easily the most fertile ground for interesting conversation.

    Many passengers make a mental catalogue of their driver stories. So poke around here and find out if your passenger is someone who likes driver or passenger stories. Passengers are often surprisingly knowledgeable about what Uber, the company, is going through, and they’re usually curious about your take on the news.

    I remember when I was having trouble getting Uber to pay up on a bonus I’d earned and mentioned it to several passengers. They were all ears, because they too had problems with Uber support. It gave them an opportunity to air their gripes. When you’re getting something off your chest, you’ve established a bond with the passenger rather than distance. Just be careful to make sure it’s not an Uber employee in the back seat before you unload on the company.

    Never Initiate a Conversation on Sex

    Nothing creates more distance with passenger than an unwanted sexual comment. If you violate this one, you’re totally on your own. Even beyond this, never comment on the appearance of a passenger. Even a casual mention of a passenger’s looks can be interpreted as a come on, or an insult. It can get you in deep trouble.

    Drivers, what do you think of these conversational tips? Do you have any tips to add? Would you consider yourself a great rideshare conversationalist?

    -John @ RSG

    John Ince

    John Ince

    John Ince is a former Fortune reporter and Wall Street banker. He has about 1,000 rides under his belt driving part time for Uber and Lyft.  He’s writing a book about his experiences entitled:  Travels With Vanessa:  A Rideshare Driver Tries To Make Sense of It all - For a sneak peak visit the link above.