There’s one question in a conversation we all fear: What do you do? However, in France, they’ve elevated small talk into medium talk. Let’s try that.
There’s a question that we all fear. One immediately aimed at us as soon as we meet someone new.
So, what do you do?
That question, regardless of the answer, has long been a staple of Western conversation, but one that is deemed rather rude elsewhere.
In fact, in France (a place resistant to rudeness), it is considered a particularly heinous act. In their book, The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed, authors Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau elaborate on why you should never ask a French person about their work. According to the book, the French are subject to a very particular social quirk. They enjoy pretending that they don’t like their jobs. Which is amazing. I possess a French trait. Mon Dieu. So, just like money, work is a boring topic on the Rue wherever.
However, back to the boring topics of home. The societal problem, at least I’ve found, is the placing of individuals in a solitary box. Especially if this happens at a dinner table, or at a party. What you do, is what you are. In fact, I’ve long suspected that particular question to be a baited one, one one aims in the vain hope that they’d be able to explain what they do.
What it seems to be, at least to me, is a lack of conversational nous. The realm of the basic. Talking about yourself is often easier than discussing events, so it’s a warm blanket of relevance. This is what I’m paid to do.
Perhaps we should abandon that, and follow the French example. According to the aforementioned book, the French use conversations for exchanging points of view, not finding things in common.
Let’s try that.
At least for one night.