Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Job


QUESTION: Are there any social etiquette rules that suggest that a person shouldn't ask someone else what their job is?

ANSWER: Thank you for your question.  A person should not inquire what the profession is of another.  It’s the adult version of “What college are you going to?” when you’re in high school and “What are you going to do now?” when you’re about to graduate college.

These questions are often used as conversation starters. However, it’s basically asking, “What’s your value and worth?” within the first few minutes of meeting someone.  We tend to drop this heavy question into conversation before almost anything else has been said, as a way to quickly gather information and start forming an image of the person we're speaking with. While the inquiry might seem harmless, it perpetuates a dangerous habit: The tendency to associate who we are with what we do.

I believe that if you’re willing to build a rapport with someone instead of taking a speed dating approach to making new friends or building contacts, you’ll be much more successful.

Discussions about goals, ambitions, and work will flow into the conversation naturally. And honestly, who wants to talk about work when they’re not at work?

There are a million ways to start a conversation. If you're not sure how, here are a few ideas about to get things rolling:

Give a compliment
Comment on something about the situation you're both in
Launch right into a funny story and hope for the best

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QUESTION: I got a hair cut today and like clockwork the person asked me what I do for a living. I told them I work in two places. They persisted to ask what I do and I told them pizza. They then asked if I owned two pizza places and I had to tell them I delivered for them. Is there any polite way to tell someone something that will keep them from minding my personal business without seeming evasive?

You can always deflect a question you prefer not to answer by asking them a question.  When asked, What do you do? You could say, “Nothing as exciting/fun as what you are doing". "What made you decide to go into_______?" (insert business).

The direct approach is  "I'd prefer not to answer that" or "I'd rather not answer"

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Constance Hoffman


As a professional etiquette coach and trainer, I am able to assist with any and all of your questions pertaining to social and business skills, party manner, appearance, communication both verbal and written, tipping, email manners and social media, and of course entertaining and dining etiquette.


As owner of Social and Business Graces, I have been teaching children and adults for over 15 years.

Owner of Social and Business Graces

Owner, teacher, coach and author of "Tips on Tipping".

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