I’m Mildly Insightful… What Do You Do?
There is a term in communication theory known as phatic communication, coined by Roman Jakobson (and I only mention his name because it looks good in search engines).
Basically this is any word or phrase meant to initiate communication or keep channels open. Less academically speaking, any pointless speech to get the ball rolling. Simply put: “i, how’s it going?”
Phatic communication serves no real purpose other than to lead (or attempt to lead anyway) to more meaningful communications.
Classically speaking, after the small chatter, such topics would invariably lead to the old job. However, it seems to me at least, that more and more conversations begin with not “how’s it going?” but rather straight to the kill and “what do you do?” I attest it to the America’s hang up on employment – pride in having it, working vacations, and 24/7 reachability.
But due to this trend, the art of conversation is dying off. Instead of the phatic “Hello” and starting slow, we now have entire pointless conversations before any real conversation is to be had; which tends to lead to an awkward thud in the chatter after both sides have spoken their piece – much like after the dueling “Hi, how are ya?”‘s
I mean, unless one participants job is an illegal Turkish ivory deal whose everyday is fraught with peril… not much gets elaborated on, and each party moves on to the next lawyer or accountant and repeat the dance.
We really need to cease the need to find out what the next person does for a living. How about starting things off by asking “So, what are you into?” Or the classic, “Read any good books lately?” Sure they’re lame, old fashioned ice-breakers, but they worked. Sure, I could be an accountant for a living, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m into it.
Many good plug of the NWOt was lost and many a good debate on the merits of M Theory didn’t happen due to the resounding collapse after my, “I’m unemployed at the moment.” I might was well, put up orange cones and have a British bobby disperse the crowd… “Nothin’ to see ‘ere… Unemployed, no redeeming social value…”
Had Orville and Wilbur Wright not been cousins and just met one day at a party, do you really think we would have gotten an airplane out of “So what do you do? I build bikes. Really? Me too… how funny is that?! … Well, see ya.”