There are a lot of questions better than ‘what do you do?’ but unfortunately most of them are either way too naff or way too personal to ask someone you’ve just met. You can’t be like, “Hi, I’m Howard, I’m a friend of Kate’s. What was the last thing that made you cry?”
What you want is something that:
- sounds pretty normal, you’re not going too far off social script
- has a range of possible interpretations, so they can dodge any topics they’re not comfortable talking about or don’t find interesting.
You want to say:
What are you working on at the moment?
They can tell you their job title if they insist, or what they’re actually working on at work (which will be a more specific and therefore interesting answer), or any hobbies, sidehustles, creative projects, etc, or “making my way through every single film JK Simmons has ever appeared in.” A lot of things can fall under ‘working on at the moment’. It allows for joke-responses, so you can evade the question without seeming evasive. It’s just an all-round upgrade!
I know this is only a tiny advice, but who doesn’t want even a tiny upgrade to their life, especially one so cost and effort-free.
Edit: I've been informed that artists find this question aggro when asked by other artists, so like everything, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Maybe artists are meant to ask "how's your day job going?"
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #129 – subscribe to get the next issue in your inbox!
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