In a typical conversation, about how long does it take you to start talking about work?

If you’re like me, probably less than ten seconds.

Whether we are catching up with an old friend or meeting someone new, our professional occupations tend to feature prominently in conversations. “So, what do you do?” is a common question leveled at new acquaintances, and for good reason: what we do for a living says a lot about who we are as people. However, there is much more to us than what we do from 9-5. And in some cases, immediately reverting to work-talk is more a function of conversational laziness, habit, or simply not knowing what else to discuss than a genuine interest in another person’s life.

One of my husband’s friends once mentioned that he intentionally avoids asking new acquaintances what they do for a living. Instead, he focuses on unique topics, like where they are from, what they do for fun, or their families in an attempt to spark a more meaningful connection. This tactic inspired me to be more intentional in conversation by fighting the urge to immediately ask people what they do for a living.

The same concept can apply to our relationships with our friends. Instead of immediately defaulting to asking about the workday, we can stretch ourselves by exploring other topics. In doing so, we will likely find that we can connect on new meaningful levels with our friends and learn more about who they are, rather than just rehashing our weeks at work.

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