Sunday, March 21, 2021

The First Question That Strangers Most Likely Ask

"What Do You Do?"  This is often the first question strangers ask me ever since I am a twenty-something - and still often do as I am at retirement age.  It seems like an innocuous query - but in my eyes, it is pretty rude. 
Depending on my mood, I sometimes asked back: "Do you want to know my socioeconomic status?" Or I tell them what I am doing right now: "I enjoy this party", or "I enjoy this dinner". Or "I enjoy the weather."  Let’s think about this question: it’s such a broad, salient inquiry any answer would suffice.
What This Question Really Means:
How do you earn a paycheck?  How much money do you make?  What is your socioeconomic status?  And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you?  Am I a rung above you?  Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?
Over time, I learned a better way to answer this dangerous query, though: by changing the question altogether.  The next time someone asks what I do, I am trying this:  I don’t give them "what I am doing".  Instead, I tell them what I am passionate about, and then change course by asking them what they are passionate about:
“I’m passionate about writing (or sailing, hiking, or traveling),” I will say, followed by, “What are you passionate about?”
Now, you’ll likely get one of three responses: 1) a blank stare, 2) the person will tell you they’re also passionate about X, Y, or Z, and the conversation will veer off in a more heartfelt direction, or 3) the stranger will attempt to recite their job title, to which you can respond, “That’s great. So you’re passionate about your job?” Eventually, you will both discuss the things you enjoy, instead of the jobs you don’t.

Instead of giving people a title (i.e., a box to put you in), let them know what you enjoy doing—what you’re passionate about—and then discover what they enjoy.  The conversation will hopefully morph into something far more interesting, and you’ll learn a lot more about each other than any silly job titles or just the professions.

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