A few weeks ago, I had a realisation that my relationships and encounters with people (not all but most of the new ones) are getting increasingly transactional. A lot of it revolves around what they can do for me and I them. Nothing beyond that. I am not certain if that is a good or a bad thing but I’d like to change that if possible.
So to start, I’ve kept that thought somewhere at the back of my head, buried with all the other complex life questions that I don’t necessarily have the answers for just yet. Then, as fate would have it, I found a video by Alain de Button (now one of my favourite authors/modern philosophers and I highly recommend you to watch the video) talking about human interactions and how we are all snobs. We chase after material successes as if they are the gateways to the things we truly desire: love and acceptance. And that material chase directly impacts our social interactions.
You’re thinking; “no, that’s not true. I am very capable of sincere interactions with people”. Try and think again. Or better yet, let us break it down together.
Picture a social gathering, you meet a stranger and after exchanging ‘hellos’, the sequence of the conversation usually is as below:
1. Ask their name.
2. A half assed “how are you/how is it going” (secretly hoping they’d say “fine thank you. And you?” without elaborating further on their existential dread ).
3. What do you do / where do you work?
Depending on the answer for 3, you then either decide to continue spending your precious time with the person or look at your watch and politely excuse yourself to find someone more worthy of your time at the first opportunity possible.
No, that’s not you? Good! Please proceed to move your cursor to the ‘X’ mark and exit this window, you perfect human being. Now the rest of you, bear with me. What I took away from the above mentioned video is to stop asking people what they do. Just ask them about anything else but what they do. Like their favourite part of the day. Or how did they get to the party (then again, after nearly two years at home, you might wonder what is this mythical thing that I speak of – “party”?).
What I am trying to do is not to strip their entire being or worth to just their jobs, titles or positions. I too will try my best to answer that same question posed with a more general answer like “I am an advocate for financial inclusion and literacy” or “I send emails, create power point decks and hopefully make a dent in the universe”. I had a chat with a friend who currently works for one of the leading global e-commerce platforms and he shared that the next time someone asks him what is it that he does he will say “I enjoy playing tennis”.
Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction in making us be more compassionate, accepting and sprinkle a bit more sincerity in our interactions with one another.”
p.s: this might be more effective in a social situation rather than a business-networking setting
p.p.s: If we ever meet in person and you really want to tell me what you do, go ahead. I won’t cup my ears and run away, I promise.