Don't you hate it when you're in a situation where you have to get into that decades-long worn-out social interaction routine of "So what do you do"?
"So what do you do?" is the discount pasta of small-talking. We've all heard it 1000 times too many, and while it might've had a genuine purpose once, today it serves none but conversational fluff.
Not only do we rarely, if ever, ask each other this question out of honest interest; we're even so used to answering it that most of our response can be delivered on autopilot. So it rarely, if ever, makes for much memorable interaction.
But if you have low confidence and self-esteem, the situation surrounding "So what do you do?" can be all the much worse.
For non-fident people, talking about oneself can feel unpleasantly exposing and intimidating. If you're unsure of yourself, you're unsure of how people react towards getting to know you. And non-fidence doesn't exactly make for a conversational disposition altogether.
But furthermore, if you've been non-fident for a sufficiently long time, chances are you'll probably not be doing something that you're especially excited about.
Maybe you've picked an entirely wrong path in life, and you hate to be reminded of it, because you have no major strategy and no idea where to go from where you are. Or maybe you do, in fact, enjoy what you do, but you just don't feel like socializing.
Whatever's the case, having to deal with "So what do you do?" can be a vulnerable position for someone with confidence issues.
Therefore, I'm gonna give you four ways of handling this universally frowned-upon, yet somehow socially mandatory conversation routine.
When I started writing this article, I was actually gonna suggest stuff like "lie", "be intentionally vague" or "deliberately make up weird shit". Because that's what I used to do in the past.
But while those are neat little ways of defiantly playing one's own little socio-satirical game, I've come to prefer other ways. Ways that might be a bit less straightforward, but which are so much more supportive towards building and maintaining a strong social confidence.
#1 Turn it over to them
Okay, so this is definitely the easiest, path-of-least-resistance one of them all. But that's not to say it's the least effective. On the contrary, it quickly deflects and turns the entire situation around 180°.
See, while it might be hard to understand for a non-fident, most people actually like to talk about themselves. And since many people ask this question out of politeness rather than genuine interest anyway, they're not gonna mind getting back around to themselves anyway.
So, the next time someone asks you "So what do you do?" and for some reason you don't feel like engaging, first answer with your usual, casual phrase of as few words as possible, and then simply add: "What about you?"
They'll go on about themselves right away. And even if the topic somehow comes back to you, it can easily be reversed over and over: "What was it you said you did again?"; "Tell me more about [X]"; etc.
Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking, "But what if none of us are actually comfortable with the situation and we both try doing this tactic?"
I've never actually had this happen. So chances are, apart from slim, that at least one of you will quickly notice. Whether you want to make it into some kind of social ping-pong is entirely up to you. If you don't, there's nothing wrong with ending the conversation altogether -- for whatever reason.
#2 Talk about something that genuinely excites you
This works whether you're doing anonymous cubicle-work in a faceless corporation; work dead-end, menial tasks at a gas station, or if you're a student but you're tired of talking about your studies.
See, you don't have to answer everything directly or take any words at face value. You might, in fact, simply start talking about something you really like or find interesting. Something you're passionate about.
And furthermore, you can always apply the above approach and ask, "What are you passionate about?" Lo and behold: All of a sudden you're having an enthusiastic, pleasant conversation rather than an awkward, tedious one.
"But what if I'm not interested in anything or passionate about anything?"
Then at least you're socializing.
#3 Skip the small talk altogether
This follows naturally in the same direction as #2. See, like I said, people love talking about themselves. So, asking people about themselves really is a great key for non-fidents here.
Partly because it turns the focus away from ourselves so we can feel more secure and ressourceful. Partly because it allows us to keep on socializing, -- something we could generally use more of.
"But what if I'm not interes... "
I know. Listen up:
If you simply keep on acting as though you're genuinely interested for long enough, the funniest thing happens...
You become genuinely interested.
Make eye contact. Ask for their opinion on something. Ask them what they really like or really dislike. Get into what makes them tick. Skip the small talk and get to know each other.
When we get to know each other, we feel comfortable and secure around each other. And the more comfortable and secure we feel around each other, the less we feel ashamed of talking about ourselves. How about that?
#4 Live the life you've always wanted to tell about
Oh yes. You bet.
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