The Subtle Judgment of a Common Question

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Williamson, Author of Do You Have the Courage to Be You" and founder/CEO of Courage Worldwide, a non-profit organization which builds and provides homes for girls rescued from sex-traficking.  You can listen to the entire interview on ZEN commuter.

One point came up that we talked about at length.  It was the question that each of us has been asked on many occasions.  I am certain, like me, you have even asked the question yourself.  What is it?

"What do you do for work?" or even more simply "So, what do you do?"

Have you ever asked yourself why you ask people that question?  There definitely are some higher reasons to ask.  On some level you want to find commonalities so you can continue talking, avoid an unpleasant gap in the conversation.

However, there is a reason that speaks more to our humanness than our higher self.  We ask so that we can judge someone's worth.  There is an unfortunate hierarchy that exists in our culture; some professions rate as more important than others. The misperception is a doctor merits more respect than a janitor, a CEO more than a sales clerk.  Of course this is indeed a misperception.  No title will ever capture the essence of who you are. 

Every time you answer that question you attempt to validate yourself in the eyes of another.  It's a very subtle way that you discredit who you are.  You casually answer without knowing that you are buying into a belief system that asks you to prove your worth to another.

Surely you know that is never necessary.  You are amazing regardless of what you do.  So what do I suggest?  First off, do what Jenny and I decided last night.  Never ask that question again.  It's small talk, the smallest actually.  Instead, allow someone to truly talk about what matters to them, let them share with you who they are.  Simply say,

"Tell me about yourself."

and let that person share who they are without being judged.  Accordingly, the next time someone asks you that question respond similarly with,

"I'd rather tell you about who I am instead of what I do."

Then proceed to tell them just that, who you are.  Tell them about what you like to do, what brings you alive.  Tell them about the things that matter to you. Share, and then of course, ask the same of them.  

There are many ways in which our society creates division, many ways we buy into in order to belong.  Your belongingness is your birthright.  You are here on this planet and that proves you belong.  

In all situations look to create belonging with your fellow man and woman.  It doesn't come from glib small talk.  It comes from a desire to connect with everyone.   Words are not meant to simply fill silence.  There is never a need for small talk.  

So, tell me about yourself.

With Light and Love,

Thom


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