Every month, LinkedIn proposes a blog topic and hashtag for writers to chime in on. For December, the idea is this: “What’s the one question you’re always asked? What’s the one thing you wish more people would ask you?” So, here’s my take on the #OneQuestion query.
Rather than delve into the kinds of Q&A I get from clients, I thought I’d take a broader stance. I think there’s #OneQuestion that every single one of us gets asked on a weekly basis and that is: “So, what do you do?”
Whether it’s at a professional event, a networking function, or at a PTA meeting, it seems that everyone wants to know what line of work I’m in. Unfortunately, I see this particular question as a missed opportunity.
I recently went to the Airbnb Open and saw author Elizabeth Gilbert speak. She proposed that the better question to ask is: "What are you most excited about in your life right now?" It helps people to open up and share so much more than the way they earn a paycheck.
Beyond that, when I get into the “getting to know you” banter, I also like to take a page from my friend Steve by asking, "How can I best support you right now?" Steve is a born connector and, when he links up with someone, he genuinely wants to help them.
Talking about "support" is really akin to asking someone "Where do you want to be?" When someone takes the time to dig into that question, it makes you think on a deeper level. It’s interesting what that reveals. It gives you a sense of who that person is by what they ask of you. In addition, there’s a gravitas that forces you to think about what you really need.
Sometimes that support comes in the form of making a connection, sometimes it means buying a product or service, and other times it’s about hiring somebody for something. Regardless, there’s some sort of bigger opportunity at play.
Of course, you should be willing to give before you take. And you should be willing to give regardless of what’s coming back to you. It’s a leap of faith at times. The second part of the equation is that you have to be willing and able to follow through on what is being asked of you. It’s usually easier to lend a hand than you’d think.
So, the next time you almost ask someone what they do for a living, consider reframing the question. Ask about their hopes, their dreams, their passions, or their needs instead. You’ll be amazed what you get in return.