“So, what do you do?” I wince. I falter. My hackles instinctively go up. I stop, shift a little on my feet, smile and politely give my answer. The conversation is not off to a good start. Did they spot the wave of disappointment wash over me? Too late, I couldn’t disguise it. A micro facial expression gave me away but only if they’d been observant. Phew, I think I pulled it off. What is my problem with this question? What I do for a living is an easy question for me to answer. I know what I do and I know WHY I do it. In fact I actually love what I do. That’s not the issue here. It’s just that in that moment by starting with that question the other person is using my profession as the foundation of whether I will be of interest to them. They are placing a biased label on me. Putting me in a neat pigeon hole in their mental filing system. Slotting me into where I fit in their map of the world. It is for this reason that I find this question a problem. There is an obsession with someone’s profession and we are so much more than this one aspect of us. Our profession is just one part of who we are. It’s why I avoid asking the question, ‘what do you do?’ and instead ask engaging questions that open up opportunities for people to share more about what they do in life and what is important to them. It gives them an opportunity to share what lights them up in their life. How much more fun will that conversation then be? It's why I open every episode on my podcast introducing my guest by their name only without labelling them with titles or sharing what they do. I simply ask them what they are doing at the moment which frees and empowers them to share what they choose as being important to them which leads to a fabulous conversation. Don’t fall into the bias trap. Life is all about the people you meet and the things you create with them. Start out on a more positive footing. Be inquisitive, be curious, be interesting. Be ready to ask a different question. What brings you joy in life? What are you focusing on at the moment? What has surprised you this week?
ACTION POINT Do you have questions ready when you meet someone for the first time? Make a great first impression and focus on meeting!