When people ask me what I do and I tell them I work in a restaurant, the conversation often stops. Why is this? Is it me or is it them? Is it because the way I answer the question indicates to them that I don’t want to talk about it, or do they just not know how to respond? I feel like I’m being judged, but by who? Myself, them, or both? This did not seem to happen when I told people I was a bicycle tour guide or that I worked for Outward Bound.
What do you do? Most of us assume that what the person asking really wants to know is what do we do for money. And isn’t this usually what we mean when we ask others what they do? The question is a culturally programmed response to meeting someone new. It is a quick way for us to categorize each other.
I think the conversation needs to shift. I need to change my answers. And I need to ask better questions.
“What do you do?”
“I like to write, run long distances, travel, cook, spend time outdoors, and learn new things. What do you like to do?”
Wouldn’t this make for the start of a much more interesting conversation?