What do you say when you meet a person for the first time? You probably ask the person’s name. You might ask where the person grew up. And eventually you might ask one of the most common questions that people ask each other when they first meet… “What do you do?”

There are good reasons why this is a popular question. It’s a socially-acceptable topic, it’s a way to possibly find some common ground, and it gives you something to talk about. Anything is better than uncomfortable silence!

But according to freelance journalist Mónica Guzmán, this question is stale, outdated, and potentially awkward. She believes that when you ask people this question, you’re telling them that their position (and corresponding salary) is the most important thing about them. It also encourages people to start reciting their resumes, which isn’t enjoyable for anyone. And what if the person doesn’t currently have a job? Awkward, indeed.

So Guzmán suggests five alternatives, ranging from “safest” to “toughest:”

  1. What are you working on these days?
  2. What do you like to do?
  3. What are you thinking about?
  4. What are you passionate about?
  5. What are you building?

Guzmán believes that these types of questions will result in more interesting, revealing conversations. By asking these types of questions, she believes you can skip the “swapping job titles” talk and jump right into a meaningful discussion.

What do you think about these options? Do you think you might try one of them the next time you meet someone new? Or are they too strange? (I’m honestly not sure how I would react if someone I just met asked me “What are you thinking about?”or “What are you building?” I might be a little confused.)

Share your views in the Comments section below!