September 24, 2013

Small Talk: Thoughts On The Simple Question - What Do You Do?

As I get older, I find it much harder to answer the simple question when strangers ask me, "What do you do?"

It used to be a thoughtless automatic response like "I'm a student", or, "I'm a designer", then I proceed to ask them the same. Small talk ensues.

Nowadays I struggle to give a simple answer - I don't feel right doing so. In a casual situation when you're just getting acquainted with someone new, the answer to this question automatically puts you in a bucket - a bucket that's usually exclusive, based on some preconceived notions, and hard to get out of. Let's say I respond with "web designer", then the other person may automatically assume things like "Oh, html and css? Cool!" So now I'm the html/css girl who probably works for some ad agency. Categorized incorrectly. Nothing more.

I feel inadequate by answering, "Um, stuff? Web stuff? And other things? Music stuff?" It's vague, not on purpose, but it's the best response I have without boring the person with too much detail.

I think people subconsciously feel the need to bucketize things. It soothes a part of our brains when things are less "unknown". I'm not saying there's anything wrong with asking. I'm guilty of it too. After all, you do want to learn about the people you meet. I just remind myself not to judge someone so quickly based on their response, cuz people are so much more than a few labels.