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8 Questions to Ask Someone Other Than "What do you do?"

Research shows "that question might not be the best way to build rapport with someone else. In fact, it may be best to avoid talking about work entirely."

[hbr.org]

Athena 8 July 12

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11 comments

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1

Thanks for posting this. I had seen your previous post but not this one. I read a number of articles on this subject after you posted. Several of them indicated this was considered terribly rude in certain countries. I also considered my impending retirement and who would I be then. I saw that several suggested it was a way to assess someone's worth.

I'm not sure why I started with that question. But I suspect because its primarily how I identify myself. I am trying to change that discussion. Thanks for pointing it out.

Btw, I have a friends wife who is an artist. It took me five years to retrain myself. I now start discussions with conversations like, what colors are exciting you these days?

But it does take me practice!

I appreciate your input and your openness to leading with other questions.
I've noticed, for some, the question is a hard one to let go of, with insistence that it's a great way to get to know someone.

That to me is interesting and makes it true, in that case. It can be a good way to learn about someone, in that if one insists it's a great first question, I don't think we will connect!

1

I used to hate being asked what I do. I'm naturally skeptical of people and think they just want to judge me. Some of those other questions are more than I'd want some stranger asking me about.

"What are you passionate about?"
"None of your damn business!"

It's difficult overcoming being an introvert unless there's a pretty girl involved.

1

I'll usually go for questions about preferences in music or books or movies, people who know history about a time or a place I don't are also fun. I'm both a colossal geek and a snarky hipster bitch, so I can literally talk for days about music and film.

Beyond that, the obvious questions about where they grew up and what that was like, siblings. I'll inquire after creative passions like art or an instrument or knitting. Whether they have pets, what kind, what are the issues with that kind of pet if its something unusual. I'm a naturally curious person.

2

Great questions.

0

Enough about you. Let's talk about me. 🙂

1

so what do you do?

1

There is a more elusive way to get to the same point of information gathering. When you volunteer an experience other people in most cases unless they are well trained can't help it, they feel compelled to share an idea or life experience with you. If you listen closely they will include details about their experience revealing details about their personality.

azzow2 Level 9 July 12, 2018

This approach has the potential to backfire in a couple of specific contexts or if overused, but this is a really good approach when it works.

1

Overall, I like the positivity of the questions; together they form a nice (if broad) map of someone's origins, dreams, passions, and philosophical leanings. I don't think it's inappropriate to inquire about someone's profession, it's just not something I would ask until I know the person better. For what it's worth: The best thing to happen to me so far this year was getting work as an extra in a TV series; for fun I like to swim, go to the movies (I go a lot), sing karaoke, act in plays & films, and go to fairs & outdoor festivals (summer=my time); causes I've supported include Habitat for Humanity, the ACLU, and public schools & libraries; and Aquaman is my favorite superhero (see above).

0

I never discuss what I did for a living. I also believe the best question to ask someone is, are you happy?

MarkF Level 5 July 12, 2018
2

Someone once asked me what I do for a living. I replied "I've found breathing pretty successful"

1

I like the idea behind these questions but most, if not nearly all, lack the skill to ask without seeming scripted. Which to me is worse than "What do you do?"

I like to see how people react to "What are you passionate about?" If they say or indicate "nothing", it is at least a strong yellow flag warning if not full-on red.

That's a good one and totally agree.

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