Shifting Small Talk to Bigger and Better Things

Why do we automatically ask “What do you do for work,” and why do we not instead ask “What do you do for play?”

I heard this questioned the other day while listening to a podcast, and I swear I felt the need to give a round of applause and let out a big, ‘HECK YES!’

Societal norms are funny. No one bats an eye to answering the question of what you do for work when making small talk with people you’ve just met. Oh, you’re the vice president of your company? I’m just over here trying to sell a house or two while also managing a few other irons in the fire which are kinda hard to explain. So, yeah I’m busy? I guess?

And then it hits. The feelings of lack. Because I work from home by choice, do I lack in worth compared to the woman who is leading the board room, and sometimes I’m just trying to take command of the laundry room? Small talk gives me all the anxiety. Can we just not?

I’ve decided to change the conversation because I know believing your worth is tied to your job (or the income) is one of the biggest limiting beliefs women tell themselves. There is equal value in the mother is crushing it with her company’s sales goals and in the mother who is packing lunches and managing the homefront.

When you ask what do you do for play, that first small talk scenario sounds and feels a lot different:

VP-boss lady: “Oh, I am learning how to sew. Yeah, I wear a lot of suits for my job and I wanted to learn how to make some fun accessories to go with my outfits. What about you?”

Me: “Well, sometimes I like to try hard recipes out of cookbooks just for fun, but I’m also trying to successfully grow a garden. Oh, and I have chickens!”

See the difference? When you ask about the interests, things get light and exciting. No one is left feeling less than and in fact, you might discover someone else’s ideas of fun might be fun for you too. 

It isn’t easy to meet someone new and change the narrative right away, but maybe it starts with getting to know the people we already have professional relationships with a little better. Community over competition always wins.

If you’re struggling to answer what you do for play, take a note from the pages of the great philosopher, Ferris Bueller:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Go make time to play!

Adventure is my favorite type of play. One summer we rented a sailboat for the day while at the beach. So happy to have a daughter who loves to try new things.


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