What do you do?
I hate that question.
I hate it.
Every time anyone meets anyone, they want to hand you a metaphorical box and invite you to climb inside and slap on a label. Be you doctor or lawyer or student or unemployed. “Help me restrict your perceived capabilities and limit my understanding of you as a person.”
Since when does my paycheck define me?
I get it. It’s a half-hypothetical question. It’s a diving board, a starting-point, an easy inception to further discussion. But, seriously, MUST we be so trite?
Expand your mind, lose the box, and start labeling your new acquaintances in an entirely different sort of way. Here, I’ll get you started:
What’s your favorite Disney movie?
No, I mean Classic Disney Full-Length Animated Feature Film?
What’s your go-to cocktail?
When was the last time you met somebody new?
Do you listen to NPR?
Do you have a big brother?
If you had to get rid of the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower, which would you get rid of?
(follow-up comment: “I think that makes you a horrible person.”)
Where’s your next vacation destination?
Okay, but if you had no budget limit, what would your next vacation destination be?
Do you remember Slip-n-Slides?
What were you better at playing: Red Rover or Hide & Seek?
Are you any good at Twister?
What was your last Halloween costume?
How old were you when you first got your own mobile phone?
Blue cheese or brie?
What are your thoughts about Louis Armstrong?
Tell me the last song you recommended to a friend.
What book is on your nightstand?
OK, no, but seriously, what book is REALLY on your nightstand? Because mine is Game of Thrones Book 4, so there’s no judgement here.
See? I won’t deny that you’ll make snap judgements when strangers answer these questions. But at least you’ll know that you can add more your mental analysis than “5’10, doctor, nice smile, horrible cologne.” You may even find something interesting to talk about. And at the very least, they’ll remember you. Trust me.
Try something new next time you meet someone. See if you can get to the end of the conversation without finding out what they do for a living, because you’re too busy finding out about their life.