The Damage of "What Do You Do?"


"What do you do?"

It is common practice in a social situation to pose this question.  We ask it to connect, to relate and to compare.  We ask it, because in our culture, status is more important than being genuine.

Genuinely curious if the other persons 'doing' relates to you?  Genuinely interested in a life outside of your own?


But posed this way in North America, "What do you do?" implies multiple pressures that creates an inauthentic and highly judgmental exchange.  

I say this from all sides.

I have been the career woman who when asked launches into a unique description of a career and job that the person who asked knows nothing about.  I am shiny, interesting and almost awe inspiring to this person. 

I have been the student who when asked regales the tales of a career turned creative enthusiast who is studying her passions and teaching on the side.  I am bright, strange and almost intriguing to this person.

I have been the ill pregnant woman who when asked expresses hope for the future, a quiet present and is soaking in the inspiration of birth.  I am natural, pathetic, and almost wishful thinking to this person.

I have been the post baby woman who when asked quickly replies with health and wellness for the present, writing and project launching for the coming months and is focusing on the needs of herself and baby first.  I am annoying, boring and almost irritating to this person.

I am the creative woman who when asked chooses to reply by saying I am intrigued by how creativity works in our lives and currently I am studying and writing about it.  I also mentor others in creativity and I keep up with an almost one year old.  I am odd, joyful and misunderstood often by you.

Instead of asking

"What do you do?"

We should be asking:

What intrigues you?  How do you do life?  What would you call yourself? 

Ask more than just a question that will help you analyze someone, ask questions that will help you understand who they are as a whole being better.  Anyone can give you their 'work' description, but not everyone can explain whole heartedly what drives them and how they get through the everyday. 

Amy LaiComment