One Bad Conversation Habit We Have to Stop Doing

"So, what do you do?"

It's usually the first thing you ask when you're talking to someone new; it satisfies our goal of knowing what their "status" is. We're obsessed with status. It gives us the false comfort that we know something about someone without really knowing anything.

I once asked a friend how he would describe me in front of a potential love interest if he were my wingman. What did he say?

This is my friend Evan, and he goes to school in California... [looks to me] USC, right? He’s studying engineering, I think.
— Not a good wingman

Now, I'm sure my female readers are just drooling right now at the thought of me.

I'm not kidding that he said this.

Unfortunately, I was not even willing to date myself going by that definition.

He's one of my best buddies, but in that moment, I knew that I would not be getting any if I went out with him -- especially if that's how he was going to describe me.

See what he did wrong was focus on my status -- something millions of people probably have (I mean how many 21-year-old Asians studying engineering in California are there), and he neglected the unique things about me: my personality and story of how I got to where I am.

In fact, we all have these unique things about us, yet we always resort to the same, boring questions:

  • What do you do?
  • What is your job?
  • What college do you go to?
  • What's your major?

All of these are logistical questions that say very little about a person. By asking these questions, you almost reduce a human into a role -- a cog in the wheel that simply fulfills a function.

But humans are not cogs in the wheel -- they are dynamic, unique, and different.

For example, imagine that there are two graphic designers from the same college. They've both done the same internships and have taken the same classes. On paper, they may have similar "statuses" but maybe one has a love for sports while the other has a passion for fashion. And this was because of them growing up in different circumstances, having different interests, and having unique philosophies that guide them to value different things.

You would never be able to tell these differences if you only asked what their status is.

What kind of questions should we ask instead?

Anything that allows you to go deeper into their unique personalities. It's fun to find their rational -- to find their "why". Some examples:

  • What's your story?
  • What's your dream job?
  • What gets you out of bed?
  • Who motivates you?

We are not our statuses. Ask status questions if you must, but figure out their "why" if you want to understand what makes them unique.