5 Most Commonly Asked Questions We All Hate Answering (& Way Better Alternatives)
It isn’t that we have anything other than good intentions when we ask questions of others. We want genuine connection, after all. It’s that the questions we rely upon to accomplish this are tired at best and wholly ineffective, verging on alienating, at their worst.
So…go on asking the same old, boring, expected questions that elicit equally uninspiring responses? Or adopt fresher, juicier, more insightful versions of said questions that (bonus!) actually have the potential to generate meaningful conversation. The choice is yours.
If you like the sounds of the latter, make that page scroll.
1. What are your plans after graduation?
The objection: Come on, we’ve all been there–this question is really just cruel, when you think about it. Remember when you had just graduated? Remember how you had approximately negative a zillion clue about your future? And remember how you dreaded having to field that question? Yeah, well, times have changed but that phase hasn’t.
The amendment: What are you most looking forward to about life after graduation?
The rationale: This gives you something to ask the graduate so as to generate conversation and express an interest in interacting with them, without putting them on the spot by asking them to give an actual adult, has-their-shit-together response. And even if the answer is no deeper than, “Well, I’m definitely looking forward to never having to smell a frat house ever again,” or, “I’m super excited to never have to visit the Library stacks again,” you’ll be doing them a semi courtesy by not asking the more pointed inquiry of their career plans (reminder: in most cases there aren’t any).
2. How’s the job search coming?
The objection: Come on. See above.
The amendment: Do you feel like you’re gaining clarity about what kind of work interests you?
Or: Is there anything I can do to help/any introductions I can make?
The rationale: searching for a job is one of the more stressful situations in life, and the last thing a person generally wants to talk to other people about. When in doubt, don’t ask about a job search at all. If there’s news, the would-be-employee will let you know of it.
3. What do you do?
The objection: This one is debatable, since we assume it’s going to be natural conversation starter. Except, often times, it’s far from being that. The person you’re asking might not enjoy their work, and thus give you a short response that consists mainly of their title. Conversation un-started. Or, they might tell you their title and you have no idea what it means. Anyhow, in the end, the banality of the phrasing of this question qualified it for this list.
Amended: How do you like to spend your time?
The rationale: This gives the person you’re questioning the opportunity to talk about whatever activities or endeavors they actually enjoy, whether that happens to be work or an activity of leisure. And true connection flows most easily when people are talking about what lights them up, no matter what that is.
4. What did you do over the weekend?
The objection: unless the person you’re asking has a real zonger of a response, you run the risk of inadvertently making them feel self conscious about how they spent their free time, especially if “how they spent it” was “did nothing.”
The amendment: What was the best part of your weekend?
The rationale: Be a winning conversationalist by setting up others to discuss their life highlights, not call upon them to rehash their everyday existence in a way that might make them feel like a lame-o.
5. How was your day?
The objection: while the question implies interest and care, it nonetheless limits a person’s response to an adjective. So it’s kind of like the perfect way to faux-care. If you really do, invite the person to expound on that one word answer with an explanation and actual description of their day.
The amendment: What was the most interesting part of your day?
Or: What was the best part of your day?
Or: What made today amazing?
Or: What did you notice today about yourself or the world?
You can take this as far in the direction of woo woo as you want.
So, now I’m dying to know: what question do you dread being asked and/or find yourself asking time and time again? Extra blog reader points for providing an amended version!
Image credit: Vogue September 2007, photographed by Steven Meisel
Other Posts You May Love
Search The Blog
Simplify Your World
Sign up for the email list to get inspiration and simplified tips sent right to your inbox.