One of the most common small talk questions is, “What do you do?” People ask this question because it’s a quick and concise way to ask people how they spend the majority of their time. But often, this question doesn’t allow people to open up and connect.
Folks might answer:
I’m a grad student at X university.
I’m an attorney.
I’m a Developer at X corporation.
Some people will share a little about the type of work they do, but people are often quite succinct and don’t elaborate. This makes it hard to find an organic way to continue the conversation. That’s why I recommend following up by asking people about what aspects of their jobs (or their fields) that they appreciate.
For example you could ask:
What’s something you enjoy about your work at the moment?
Are you noticing anything changing in your field right now?
What is one of the best parts of your job?
What is something about your current role that you find interesting?
What’s something you look forward to when you work with your colleagues?
We can always find ways to bond over stress and discomfort, but when you are meeting someone new, it’s good to connect over things that energize or intrigue you. If your goal is to get people to open up, think about also asking them to share things that inspire and motivate them.
Bri McWhorter is the Founder and CEO of Activate to Captivate.