Meeting strangers, you gotta love it or hate it. One thing about it is evident. People tend to ask this particular question to break the ice, which is ”Soooo, what do you do?”
I get it, the brief answer to “What do you do?” lets people have a quick impression of us and gives them a view of what we do or who we are. This question has actually a bitter aftertaste, usually without noticing.
Unfortunately, what we’re actually asking is:
What job do you do for a living? How much is your salary? What is your position on the social ladder? Where am I on the social ladder compared to you?
The situation often goes like this:
Person 1: ”What do you do?”
Person 2: *insert job title*
Answering this question doesn’t require any effort, you are just stating plain facts about yourself, namely your name and job title. Gradually, it also becomes a habit. Ask yourself, how many times this boring question has been asked or yourself have asked it to someone? I bet it’s infinitely. No wonder everyone answers like a robot when this question popped up. We make ourselves creatures of usually bad habits. Lazy and not original at all.
People tend to ask this question to find out what their ”worth” is of the opposite person and based on that so-called worth, people treat and judge each other in a way they think they deserve, whether this is intentionally or not. Of course, it doesn’t have to be always like this. On the other hand, it’s also not stimulating to have this ”break the ice talk”. Too often, it leads to an uninspired, dull and forced conversation. Otherwise, it just becomes awkward, so people are just talking to avoid awkward silences.
Nevertheless, this question will still live on, although it’s possible to approach it differently the next time you get asked this question.
Why not change the direction into something more meaningful, like your personal projects/causes, favorite moments of the day or just something you are dreaming to do, but haven’t had the chance to do so.
We are not only defined by our job, our so-called position of the ”social ladder” and the amount of money we make. Thank god, we are SO much more than that!
Let’s talk about things that actually make you feel alive, things that bring so much passion in your life that you would jump out of bed every single morning to carry on. You would be stunned how some conversations will turn out if you ask stimulating questions instead of that same old question or the trick is to change the course. If I encounter in a similar situation, I probably would say this:
Stranger: ”So, what do you do?”
Me: “Depends on how much sleep I had or the amount of food I have digested… but let’s say if I’m not hangry and during my best attempt; ”I love being creative and imaginative. Give me flour, I’ll bake. Give me pen and paper, I’ll write. Give me a pumpkin, I’ll carve. Give me wool, I’ll knit. Give me books, I’ll feed my brain. If a moment is worth capturing, I’ll shoot. I’m the kind of gal who stop suddenly and smell the roses. But also, start a discussion and challenge me, I’ll gladly discuss and understand your point of view, but still, have my own belief in it. That only in my best behavior, however.
”On the other hand; tell me a problem, I’ll overthink. Put me in the spotlight, I’ll be awkward. Inspire me to exercise more, I’ll be lazy. A brainstorm session last minute? I’ll freeze. Invite me to a birthday with more strangers than acquaintances, I’ll keep the dog company (if there is one, otherwise I’m screwed). How about you?”
Let’s inspire each other although you merely know one another. Let’s REALLY talk and listen for once. So, rather leaving yourself with a cold and dull chat.
Adverse your aim to a warm and inspiring conversation.
You might surprise yourself what it will turn into.
For the sake of novelty value.