Saturday, January 8, 2011

What are the most common questions people ask you about that?

When making cocktail party small talk, one rhetorical device I've found that works well is the meta question.

Rather than asking the obvious questions that everyone else asks, I'll ask:

"What are the most common questions that people ask you when you tell them you do XYZ?"

Instead of then rattling off their standard response to the question they've answered hundreds of times, this allows people to reflect on their experience - and they still answer the common questions.

Certain occupations elicit the same questions over and over. When I tell people that I was a submarine officer, I invariably get asked:
1) Did you get claustrophobic?
2) What is the longest you stayed out at sea?

Alternative meta-questions:

"What is the most oddball question you've been asked about XYZ?"
"What question should people be asking about XYZ?"

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