Monday, 11 August 2008


What do you say when you engage a stranger in conversation, say at church, and want to get beyond the superficial? There are the standard utterly boring questions "what do you do?", "where do you live?", and the one I hate the most, "how are you?". Upon receiving the standard reply "good", I feel compelled to ask "why?", which probably tells people immediately that I'm an annoying freak, but I think it's good to be open about that.

Anyway, I've discovered a brilliant and simple alternative: "Tell me about yourself!" It's a most efficient way to find out what people think is important about themselves, and far more interesting than the standard questions. Yesterday a person told me straight away that he likes fishing.

Nerds For Jesus: bringing you original social-skills research since 1992.


  1. Aaron Swartz asked himself the same question a while ago:

  2. I was once asked this exact question in a job interview. I was caught so off-guard that the first thing I could come up with was "I'm a huge [Toronto] Blue Jays [baseball club] fan." I didn't get the job.

  3. That simple? Cool. Thank you!

  4. I often use "what's your story?", in the hopes that it will provoke interesting conversation, whether fact or fiction. However, I find that, in practice, many people cannot cope with such an open-ended question: a common response is for clarification, followed by amazement that I will listen to anything from their life story to the little adventure they had looking for a parking space this morning to the short story they made up for their kid last night. Some people, on the other hand, immediately say something interesting.