getting to know a stranger

getting to know a stranger

I was talking to Kathrine over the weekend and she was asking the question:

“Why is it that people always ask ‘what do you do’ when they first meet someone? Why don’t they ask about who that person actually is rather than just what they do

I thought that was a good point. Why do we evaluate people based on what they do rather than who they are? I guess it’s because it’s easier to evaluate where someone fits in the world and then that gives us a reference point to start a relationship. Once we know what sort of ground we are both standing on, only then can be go for a walk as such

I guess the question I would ask is whether what someone does is a good way of evaluating them? Is it actually a good way of getting a lay of the land? I suspect not. Finding out what someone does during the day does not give you much insight into what they believe, how they behave, or how they are actually feeling at that point. Also I don’t think people have value only because they can do something. I believe people have value simply because they are.
So how am I to start off a conversation and find out about someone? Do I say
“Hi, who are you”
“I’m Greg”
“Nice to meet you Greg, so tell me about you”

“Ummm… what do you want to know?

I could ask them to “tell me about yourself” and see where that goes. Actually that might work well because then they get the chance to say what ever they would like me to know about them first

I wonder what would happen if I ask the same question to people I know well. I’m going to try that and see how it works out.

26 comments (Add your own)

1. E wrote:
I still disagree a little bit. You see, that can be a really scary question to answer. The immediate thing that comes to mind isn't "hey this person is really interested in who I am" it's "what are they looking for, I don't know what to say or how to approach them". This may not be true of everyone, but I would even now be a bit taken aback by a question like that because it pushes you out of your comfort zone into a "UMMM" zone. I think maybe there could be a way of phrasing it better. Something like "What makes you different to everyone else" or something.

Mon, February 16, 2009 @ 11:16 PM

2. Hayden Sanders wrote:
I agree that it would freak some people out. But I guess that wasn't really the point I was trying to make, although it is how I ended this post. I was really trying to ask the question about why we find it so easy to group people based on what they do for a job. I understand that a good way to find out about someone is to find out what they choose to do with their time. I'm just not convinced that many people do a job they really care about; therefore, finding out what they do for a job is not always going to give you a good indication of who they are. So I was wondering how to go about finding out about the person - because that's what I actually want to know about - rather than just what they do which may have very little to do with who they are.

Mon, February 16, 2009 @ 11:35 PM

3. Hayden Sanders wrote:
Maybe the actual questions I could try use are:

"What do you want to do with your life"


"What would you do with your time if money wasn't an issue"

Mon, February 16, 2009 @ 11:48 PM

4. Ben Sanders wrote:
interesting idea bro. But do we actually ask the question for a status elevation? or do we ask the question to try and find some common ground? or a possible insight in to where that person is in their life?
I believe there could be a better phrase to use but I think asking what someone does is a sufficient question in this society. It is the common denominator of our lives and tells us what their possible views are.
But I also see the point of someone being guarded about their job.
I think it really isn't the question it is more the reason and interpretation of the question which will define a desired answer and response.

Fri, March 13, 2009 @ 5:56 PM

5. Heidi Noelle wrote:
So how did it work out?

Fri, March 20, 2009 @ 10:43 AM

6. Hayden Sanders wrote:
It's an ongoing thing really. When I meet new people I'm trying out different ways of getting to know them. So far the best I've come across is asking them what they would do with their time if money and resources didn't stop them. The few people I've tried that with have said "wow that's a big question" then they laugh and say "ummm let me think" and the conversation flows on from there. It usually comes back to something they partly do with their jobs. Like it's a small aside thing they get to do every now and then with their current employment but they don't do it enough. They would often go and do just that one thing a lot.

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