You’ve heard it before — you can’t expect different results if you keep doing things the same way. Seemingly, if you want different answers, you’ll have to start asking different questions.
Each and every one of us is characterized by much more than what we do for a living. So why is it that we define, and are asked to define, ourselves by what we do to keep afloat? We are more than our daily grind. There are a lucky and determined few who possess something greater than gold, and that is the realization, the culmination, of a childhood dream. So where does that leave the rest of us? When we’ve begun to describe ourselves in two words or less we’ve lost touch with what makes us whole. We are all artists, musicians, dancers, poets, scholars and so on — and while these pursuits may not be lucrative for some of us, they are still a part of us.
Consider a typical interaction when meeting someone new. After smiles are shared, names are exchanged and hands are shaken, there is an ever-so-slight moment of silence where we search for what to say next. In almost rote fashion, we ask “So, what do you do?” and the “do” in “What do you do?” is almost always implied as one’s job. If the question is met with an underwhelming reply such as “tax compliance officer” (sorry, tax compliance officers) or the admission of unemployment, conversation comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, the connection is lost. And let’s be honest, unless you’re working on the SpaceX team or as a professional snuggler, most people don’t want to hear about what you do anyway. What makes us interesting, what makes us unique, is not usually how we make a living. So why aren’t we connecting with what really makes us, us?
Despite our greatest efforts in progress, we still maintain plenty of traditional values. We continue to value that which we do for income over almost anything else; and the success of one’s life, in general, is based on the wealth of one’s paycheck.
In the ever-expanding development of social media platforms, online profiles are a necessary cog in the machine. And for better or worse, we are more exposed than ever before — our photos, interests, experiences, histories, skills and talents are not only available, but we make a point of widely publicizing and glorifying our profiles. We’ve become a culture of paradox. We continue to remain simultaneously showcased and yet anonymous online — whereas, we are largely masked when we are physically present.
We need to start asking the questions that matter.
Next time you meet someone new, ask them something different, such as:
What do you enjoy?
What keeps you busy?
What inspires you?
Tell me about you.
They might be surprised — but you might be surprised at what you find as well.
These questions and conversation starters produce a much more fulfilling dialogue by revealing our authentic selves. In the process, we understand one another with greater clarity, and our true humanness is shared.