“What Did You Do Today?”
A few months ago, I came across an advice column talking about cocktail party etiquette (I’m pretty sure it was in Real Simple, but I can’t seem to find the exact column now). The person asking the question was tired of work-focused discussions with new acquaintances, and looking for advice about other good ways to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I loved the advice the columnist gave: Instead of asking “What do you do?,” ask “What did you do today?”
This small change is so simple, but it can entirely shift the tone of a conversation. It opens the door for the other person to talk about things they care about…things they’re proud of…or things they’re wondering about (the race they ran…the class they taught…the movie they watched…the R&R they got), while still leaving space for them to talk about their “work” if they want to (for the few people who are in a beautiful place of work/life integration, the answers to both questions might be the same). Asking “what did you do today?” makes it easier for people to find shared interests and common experiences right away (“hey, we both listened to that crazy segment on pregnant teenagers on This American Life this morning”). And it takes us back to our roots…to the way we behaved when we were small and curious and pure and untouched by social norms. Think about it…when you meet little kids, they usually ask things like “what did you do today?” or “what are you doing right now?” or “what do you like to do?”
So as you’re thinking about the relationships area of your wellfesto, maybe it’s worth thinking about the way you start and nurture new relationships. Are they founded on shared interests and experiences or do they get stuck at a surfaced level? How can you make the transition to more depth more quickly? If you have ideas to share, please post them!