Saturday, March 23, 2019

What Do You Do?

I am guilty. Guilty of starting conversations with people I have just met by asking them, "What Do You Do?" Why do we ask this as one of the first questions when meeting someone new?  Exactly what kind of information do we hope to gather when someone answers this question?

-I am an electrical engineer.

-I am a logistics coordinator.
  -- I don't even know what that means.

-I am a brand specialist.
  --What brand?

Our follow up is usually superficial.  Hmm.  Great.  Wow.  Most of the time we don't know what to say.  I have tried to erase the What Do You Do? question from my vocabulary.  I try to establish common ground and make people feel comfortable.  If they attend the same church, I will ask, How long have you been at Grace?  Then I will ask about where they reside and if they have children in Sunday School if they are not present at the time.  If I am introduced by a friend, the natural first question is, How do you know each other? The answer will lead to many other questions. Their children may attend the same school, they may work together, they may be neighbors.  Another way I like begin conversations is when I think I may know someone, I will boldly introduce myself and say, My name is Kelli Gavin. Have we met before? You look familiar. - More times than not, we have never met.  But a personal introduction often initiates a conversation.

When people ask me what I do,  I often change it up. Sometimes I say I am a Professional Organizer. Sometimes I say I am a Writer. Sometimes I tell them I am both.  Both answers are true, but sometimes disclosing I am Professional Organizer to certain people creates for interesting conversation.  However, when I tell people that I am a writer, there are some huge misconceptions that I have come up against.  People ask me how many books have I written.  Two. Both are unpublished as of yet, but I usually don't volunteer that information. Many people believe that because I write for newspapers, online forums, magazines, journals and anthologies that I am not a "real writer". I am asked if I write novels, and the answer is no. I write non fiction short stories and poetry.  I get a lot of glassy eyed stares when it comes to the topic of non fiction short stories and poetry.  I explain I write about my life, conversations and observations.  People will snort and ask if I will write about them. I usually do. But the biggest issue I come up against when I tell people that I am a writer is that the general public believes that if you are not a NY Times Best Selling Author, that it is just a hobby.

Rather than asking questions that I know people don't really want the answer, I have changed the dialogue. Now when people ask me what I do, I make a joke.

-Do you mean during the day?
-I am not able to talk about that yet.
-Usually I sing in the shower each day.
-I seek out dogs that may be looking for a friend.
-I play more Scrabble than the typical person.

These answers often make people laugh a bit and help them lighten up.  It also helps them not focus on the work aspect of life, but helps them tell me more about themselves as a person when I ask them questions.

I want to know about your family. I want to know about your kids.  I want to know about your marriage. To hear stories about caring for your aging parents.  And what it was like to be widowed at a young age. I want to know what your kids do for fun. I want to know how you would spend a day if there were no demands for your attention.  I want to know what your favorite books and music and movies are. I want to know what your latest home project is. I want to know about those new grand babies in your family. I want to know about you are studying in The Word and how God is working in your life. I want you to talk about what hurts. I want to know what makes your heart soar in delight.  I want you to share with me about your childhood and how you became the amazing person you are today.  I want you to tell me about you.

I want to connect with you.

So if you are a circus acrobat or clown, ride show ponies, or specialize in translating before now untranslated languages, I do of course want to know about that.  But to connect with you on a personal level, where I leave knowing more about your heart, that is what I really look forward to.

1 comment:

Brass Knuckles

         I love telling stories. I also love retelling stories that aren't mine. Stories that have been shared with me. Stories overhear...