How to ask meaningful Questions
“So, what do you do?”
This is this question I have been asked most in my adult life, and usually, it just means where do you work? This question always made me a little anxious. On one hand, it was easy to answer because I was proud to have a job, and it allowed for a quick canned response: I work at XYZ. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be defined by my job, I wanted to answer with something unique to who I am.
I believe that the intent of the question is good, and it is better than nothing when it comes to engaging others; but can we be more intentional about the questions we ask?
When I was young, the questions were more specific: Do you like Transformers? Do you play soccer? What’s your favorite thing about school? What do you want to be when you grow up? Wanna play? The specificity in those questions allowed me to express myself, and they also told me something about the other person.
Those questions served as an invitation more so than a formality.
Why it’s the worst question to ask
Why do we feel the need to identify with our profession as adults? Where did the childhood curiosity go? I write as someone who asked this question a lot to avoid awkward silence in a conversation, but I’ve been trying to ask questions that get to the uniqueness of that person rather than the category of society they fall in. Sometimes, an individual may choose to bring the conversation back to their career because it does align with their passion.
The question “what do you do?” is also vague and can put undue pressure on those who struggle with social interaction or anxiety. Some folks need a little conversational help or guidance to open up.
Change the narrative
What would you like people to know about you? Ask others the questions that you would like to be asked.
For the first time in my life, I am not working at a company. For the first time in my life, I took a risk and stepped out of the 40 hour workweek into the full availability for life. This is why I have become so aware of questions that corner me into identifying with how I make money.
It is uncomfortable, to be honest. There is a learning curve to meaningful conversation, but. I believe that it is necessary to give people the space to express themselves.
I would like to end with a quote by Dr.Viktor Frankl in about the value of creating a space for meaningful response:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”