In this season of holiday parties, and at “networking” events you might attend throughout the year, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up meeting someone new and fielding or asking this question:
What do you do?
Be honest. How often is that the first question you ask someone?
It’s popular because it’s an easy ice breaker.
(Unless you’re at an industry conference. Because then you know the answer. Now what?)
It’s also an invitation to trite small talk. Yes, it’s nice to know what people do, and create connections for business referrals, but here’s the thing:
People refer business to people they know, like, and trust. Knowing what someone does isn’t the same as knowing who they are.
If you want to plant seeds for deeper connections, it helps to ask a better question.
Two Words to Change the Conversation
One of my favorite questions to ask when I meet someone new is a slight twist on the classic.
What do you do for fun?
Those two words change the conversation.
They open up pathways to explore, create opportunities for finding mutual interests, and give you insight into what’s beneath a person’s facade.
I’ve been asking this for well over a decade, and it never fails to generate an interesting conversation. I leave the conversation feeling like I got to know the other person on a more meaningful level. And it helps me remember them after the event.
Aside from learning interesting things about others, here are 3 reasons I love this question:
(1) It Interrupts Patterns
I admit, I like to be a bit disruptive. And I like to break habits. This question fits the bill on both.
It often catches people off-guard. They start to hear what do you do and go into their elevator pitch before realizing that’s not the question.
I’m a … oh, wait. For fun? What do I do for fun?
The double take never fails to amuse me.
(2) It Lightens The Mood
Even people who love what they do don’t want to talk about it all the time. And many people don’t love what they do. They certainly don’t want to talk about it.
Asking people what they do for fun gives them a chance to talk about parts of their lives that excite them. It’s also likely something they don’t get much opportunity to talk about.
When people talk about what they do for fun, they strip back the protective masks we all tend to wear in public. They stop trying to be a certain way and they relax into who they are. You get to experience the person in their authentic self — not the version that’s trying to prove their success.
(2) It’s a Gift to the Other Person
Any time we can help another person be in their authenticity, we have given them a great gift.
We also give others a gift when we help them access the parts of themselves that they may have disconnected.
I’m constantly surprised by how many people need to think about this question before answering.
Many adults don’t often think about having fun or what they do for fun. Asking this question helps them access a part of their being that may be dormant or disconnected.
I love to see the shift in energy in a person’s face and body as they reflect and eventually remember. It’s like they reconnect with a part of themselves that was lost. Seeing that lights me up. So it’s a gift to myself too.
In fact, people often thank me for asking them this question. When was the last time someone thanked you for asking what do you do?
I invite you to give it a try at your next opportunity and see what happens.
Also, it helps to have your own answer ready. Because inevitably they will ask you the same question.
What do you do for fun?
I’d love to hear your answer. Please share in the comments.