Who Are You? instead of What Do You Do?

When I first meet someone one of the first questions I’ll ask is, "So what do you do?" Almost always I’ll get some generic response like, "I’m a software entrepreneur" or "I’m a teacher." I do the exact same thing when someone mistakes me for a 30-something and I’ll say "Oh, I’m just an entrepreneur and writer." Not very helpful. With only one question, I’m hesitant to dive into my full bio because that comes across as arrogant.

Umair Haque, in a recent parenthetical, said that only in the U.S. do you ask "what do you do?" as the first question at a mixer.

Maybe this is because in America we unfortunately value what someone is doing as much more important than who someone is.

Is there a better question to ask when meeting someone for the first time that will elicit a richer perspective on who they are? Obviously, in the virtual world, a personal blog does this magnificently!

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