The worst question in the world

You know what’s the worst? When you go to a workshop or a conference or you’re at your first day at a new job and they’re all “tell us your name and your role and something INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF?”. Like, as a dumb “ice breaker”/ bonding tool. How about no, Scott.

This is a terrible question for the following reasons:

  • It catches you off guard and you fumble and look like an idiot in front of your new potential friends/colleagues (even though we have all been asked this a thousand times before).

  • It doesn’t lend itself to having a good answer, because you are probably in a situation with new people and you don’t want to sound like a super arrogant jerk or a loser. 

  • You’re often in a professional setting at this point, so it’s weird to try and mentally shift from ‘formal’ to ‘informal’.

  • You don’t want to respond with something like “oh I can ride a unicycle” and then everyone makes you bring your damn unicycle to work, and then people in the office just awkwardly ask you about your unicycle because that’s the ONLY thing they remember about you.

  • Things that might be important to you are not necessarily interesting. For example, I love sitting in the steam room at the gym smugly burning “heaps” of calories like it’s a workout, and thinking about my next meal while eating my current meal, and binge watching Netflix alone on Saturday nights. But no one CARES about that. It’s not INTERESTING, even if it consumes 98% of my time.

  • It’s too easy to opt out of answering: “Nothing is interesting about me!” “Come back to me later” “I don’t know… what about YOU?” “That’s a hard question” *awkward silence* *move on*.

  • It puts the entire onus on the person answering to be interesting rather than promoting a more equal conversation.

I asked some friends to answer this question. I deliberately asked people I think are interesting, hoping that they would have interesting answers. The exact thing I asked was: “You know when someone asks you for a ‘fun/interesting fact’ about yourself? What do you normally say?”. Here are some of their answers:

  • “My stomach is a bottomless pit.”

  • “I don’t answer that question, I normally respond in interpretive dance.”

  • “I tell people about this time I went on a camel in the desert… fool them into thinking I am easy going and adventurous.”

  • “I don’t even know what to say because the answer I would give would probably make people judge me in a bad way. Like I was a 60 year old woman trapped in the body of someone in their 20s…”

Suspicions confirmed; this is the worst question in the world. I still don’t know WHY this question is so common. Is it actually a good conversation starter? Does anyone ever say anything genuinely interesting or memorable? In the wise words of Simon Cowell, “it’s a no from me”. Maybe it’s just because the context in which this question is often asked is normally at something boring and known for being lame - like a conference or during forced group activities at a work retreat #compulsoryfun. So the organisers are trying to balance the dorky environment and dull questions with something “lighthearted” and “fun”.

So, HOW do you answer this? The internet provided nothing satisfactory when I looked it up, which is further confirmation that there’s no good way to answer this, but whatever let’s TRY, because it’s going to keep coming up, fo sho. First of all, make a note in your phone with your answers to this question - because since it catches you off guard, you may not be able to recall your answers in the moment, even if you have come up with them before. Also, aim for a few answers, so you can pick the most appropriate one for the situation where this shit question arises. Here are the types of responses that I think are probably actually (somewhat) interesting, don’t make you sound like an arrogant jerk, and that open the floor for people to ask you questions later (in a non-unicycle way).

  1. Once I volunteered in <third world nation> for <ages> to <build an orphanage, probably>.

  2. Celebrity encounters, e.g. Bon Jovi mistook me for his child and kidnapped me for a week.

  3. Something you won  - either a competition for doing something (hotdog eating contest), or in a raffle or some shit (life size ceramic dalmatian).

  4. Weird hobbies (past or current), e.g. competitive dog grooming, extreme ironing.

  5. Organisation you are involved in that is actually cool, e.g. a cool start up, Brownie Guides, Freemasons.

  6. Something insanely unlikely, e.g. struck by lightning, read Apple’s full T&Cs.  

  7. Something super funny and/or self deprecating, e.g. a monkey stole my wallet in Cambodia, a shark ate my left leg and now I am in a wheelchair.

For real.&nbsp;

For real. 

Key points: don’t say something nerdy and uncool. Don’t come across like a jerk. Don’t say something you will be asked to demonstrate. Don’t say something about your body ya creep.

Or maybe you should just go and DO something interesting so you have something to talk about. Things I am thinking about doing for this exact purpose are listed below, please feel free to take inspiration from this super helpful list:

  • Acroyoga

  • Extreme trampolining

  • Re-conduct Morgan Spurlock’s pioneering experiment from Super Size Me

  • Move into a yurt

  • Buy a teacup pig

  • Refuse to wear shoes for a year

  • Perform world’s first head transplant

Heaps cool interesting hobby idea ^

Heaps cool interesting hobby idea ^

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