I would never claim to have exemplary social skills. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an introvert and kind of awkward. But I do think that I’m pretty good at talking to complete strangers at parties. For one thing, I’m genuinely interested in other people. And for another thing, I will never fucking ask you what your passion is.
“What’s your passion?” Oh. My typical response is to sigh heavily, stare far off into the distance, murmur, “Oh… I don’t know” in a deeply disappointed tone, then tell the person what I do for a living.
Here’s why you should never ask someone you’ve just met this question:
1. I JUST MET YOU.
Hey bro, ever think maybe I don’t want to talk about the thing that’s closest to my heart with a complete stranger? You’re really putting people on the spot with this question. Suddenly they feel vulnerable and at risk of being judged for their answer.
2. I DON’T ACTUALLY CARE WHAT YOU THINK OF ME.
This question really puts people in the position of justifying their existence to you, of summing themselves up in an easily digestible way so that you can decide if they’re worth your time or not. Please see #1: We just met. I don’t actually care if you find my passion interesting or not, and I never would have volunteered that intimate information to you. “Hi, I’m Bob, my passion in life is __________.” There’s a reason that nobody starts a conversation that way. It comes off WAY too strong.
3. IT’S A LAZY QUESTION.
If you spend the slightest bit of time talking to someone and really listening to them, you’ll find out what their passion is, I promise you. Ask them what their job is, ask them if they like it, then ask them what they’d rather be doing. Or ask them if they’ve read any good books lately. Or tell them what you spent your Saturday doing and then ask them what they did this weekend. It’s not that fucking hard to get to know someone. But it might just take you more than one question to do it.
4. EVERYONE CAN SEE THROUGH YOUR SHORTCUT.
So you don’t want to spend more than two minutes talking to me to figure out what I’m “about.” Fine. Might as well just move on then, and go stare into a mirror, or whatever it is narcissists do. I can’t reiterate this enough: WE JUST MET. I don’t even care yet about being interesting to you.
5. ASKING THIS QUESTION DOES NOT MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION.
The people who’ve asked me this question have, in general, been well-meaning, hippie-ish, and a little judgmental. I remember being at a dinner with a couple I’d never met before who did amazing and fascinating social justice work. One of them had just given a TED talk on it, and they spent most of the dinner talking about their project. Then they asked me what my passion was, and (begrudgingly) I said a few sentences about comedy writing. One half of the couple’s eyes glazed over immediately, he got up and got a drink, and did not return to our conversation again. What the fuck is that shit? Man, did I *ask* him to care about comedy? Do I think it’s TED talk-worthy? Fuck no! But don’t put me in that position!
In general, people have been disappointed with my answer to this question. I don’t know what they’re looking for, but I do know that I’ve got to find a way to never fucking answer it again. Maybe by just running away into the night.