Verandah Magazine’s resident strategic mentor and business coach points out the absurdity of judging someone by what they do, and suggests we should all stand up and be counted for everything we are…
“What do you do?” In my opinion these four words have a lot to answer for.
Suddenly, all sorts of associations and assumptions start firing in our memory, based on personal experience with others or on societal conditioning. Often what we attach to the answer has little to do with the actual person standing in front of us. The poor bystander is in our mental firing line and we can’t stop the attachments that are already causing certain automatic responses, and yet all this person has done is answer a simple question and state their profession.
Whatever our profession, when we ask somebody what they do, the majority of us all react in a similar manner – whether the answer is tradesman, lawyer, nurse, dentist, teacher or politician. We determine the standing of that person in society, their salary range, the type of house they might live in, the car they might drive, suburb they live in, what they eat, wear and how they may enjoy life. All this happens in a few seconds as we unconsciously, grab, dissect and process information. In just a few moments we have decided who this person standing in front of us is and yet we are all so much more that what we do.
So much of our identity comes through our profession – but why? Why need to place each other in boxes? Are we really trying to open a dialogue and find out more about the other person, or are we simply asking an habitual question that helps us determine the hierarchy of where we fit in, so that we can feel safe or know how to protect ourselves?
There is so much more to each of us than a job that used to define us. Next time you are asked: “What do you do?” why not share some other aspects of what you do and give a well-rounded and honest answer that encapsulates the fullness of who you are? Answer: I am a partner, lover, sister, dog walker, cat cuddler, cook, runner, swimmer, artist, author, amateur photographer, cyclist, gardener, cleaner, speaker…meditator, hostess, movie watcher, strategic consultant, , and I do many other things too. How about you?
Diffusing the power we place on profession is one way to redirect the conversation. Or you can simply bring the actual question “What do you do?” into relationship and ask: “Why would you like to know?”, and see what happens from here. The conversation may abruptly end, which means neither of you need to waste further time with pleasantries OR you might for the first time have a real conversation. Both are perfect.
Sonia Friedrich is a Mentor and Strategic Consultant to Multimillionaires and Business Owners. She’s launched a new DVD that you can download or stream or purchase as a hardcopy – How to Set Fees and Terms – for Consultants and Service Providers. If you would like to find out more visit www.soniafriedrich.com.