Social Question

Facade's avatar

Why do people generally answer the question "Who are you?" with their job title?

Asked by Facade (22884points) August 11th, 2010

For me, a job is just that, a job. I do it to make money, and that’s it. I am definitely not my job.

Why do people feel that they are their jobs or professions?

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21 Answers

syz's avatar

Because it’s where many people get their feeling of self-worth from.

Ugh, what an awkwardly phrased sentence I just created.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it depends on the person and what it is. I say I am a nurse because that is something that is still with me, whether I am at work or not. It’s a career, not just a job.

lapilofu's avatar

I usually answer with my name. :-\

MacBean's avatar

Awkwardly phrased or not, I think @syz got it exactly right. Asking “Who are you?” is a good way to find out what people value about themselves the most.

Having little to no sense of self-worth, I tend to respond with “What do you mean?” to see what the asker thinks is most important.

Facade's avatar

@MacBean I tend to respond with that as well. It’s because of a lack of self-worth?

zophu's avatar

Because they believe that is what they are. Or they believe that is what you would believe they are, or that it is what you should believe they are. Or it’s mostly just a bad social habit.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

GQ. The company I worked for in Memphis merged with one based in 90210 (Beverly Hills, CA.) When team members came back from visiting the LA office, one of the things they often brought up is that people there introduced themselves by title first, whereas we do by name and often don’t give our title. Even if asked, some of us just gave the dept. name. The LA office also required a certain title in order to enter some of their boardrooms, and even then, if you weren’t a vice-president or above, you had to sit on the sidelines and not at the table.

The LA office is now closed. :)

Edit: I just realized that this doesn’t answer your question. Maybe it is a culture thing.

MacBean's avatar

@Facade For me, it is. I just don’t feel like there’s anything about me that’s worth telling anyone. You strike me as a more confident person than me, though. I think just a little while ago I read one of your answers that said something about how your reputation is very important to you. Maybe that’s why you try to find out exactly what people want to know instead of just offering up whatever you feel like?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Because of a few reasons. Eexactly how do you define who you are? How do you define who you are in a minute or less and without revealing seriously intimate details to a total stranger – most people don’t feel comfortable with having their first words to a new person be “hi, I’m Jenny, and I’m a recovering meth addict and alcoholic, and spend most of my time these days in therapy. My days are mostly plagued with memories of my father raping me when I was prepubescent, and the emotion I feel most often is suicidal silent screaming.” Personally, who exactly I am would probably take up an entire book to get even a moderately close description.

We also live in a society that values work above almost anything else, so it’s a way of stating your worth.

cookieman's avatar

When asked “Who are you?”, I answer with my name or a descriptive phrase (ie.: “The big guy down the hall who likes cookies.”)

When asked, “What do you do?” I’ll say, “I’m a graphic designer”.

Confusing the two is strange.

And to the question, “Why are you here?” I answer, “To eat your cookies!”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@cprevite For that last one, I like to go with the infinitely more creepy “Because my mom wanted a baby, and my dad was horny”.

the100thmonkey's avatar

If you know their name, what else does the question “who are you?” demand from the respondent?

We can go into noodling about people’s self-images all we like, but ultimately what the question actually means needs to be examined first.

AmWiser's avatar

Some people just like titles; it makes them feel impotent important:D

perspicacious's avatar

I’ve never heard anyone answer that question with their profession unless Dr. is part of their name. Who are you is my name. What are you is my profession.

Jabe73's avatar

I’m not sure I am understanding your question. I’ve never had anyone ask me “who are you”. I have had people ask me “what is your name” or “what do you do for a living”?

Jeruba's avatar

Do they? I thought it was usually a request for a name or a relationship (I’m her daughter, I’m his mother, I’m your new assistant).

I did ask a young coworker this question when I saw that he had Flowers of Evil on his workplace bookshelf, but he took my question as rhetorical and didn’t answer.

zenele's avatar

Depends both on the setting, and country.

In a workplace, e.g., if A is introduced to B, he might add “Sales” to his name – to clarify to the other what he does in that company.

In a restaurant, business lunch, a friend has brought a colleague along for the first time; only he is at the disadvantage – and everyone then gives him their hand, adding their profession to their first name. Usually this will happen if the “host” introduces his friend as so and so from such and such company, perhaps for networking reasons.

Once upon a time, there were only first names, and it only mattered what tribe you were from; friend or foe.

Before that it was Lug from the Cave of Crug.

Today, even in my extremely laid back, “what’s a suit and tie again?” country, people will still mention what they do for a living in initial small talk – just to get acquainted, and also, I guess, to help size the other person up.

Ogg has biggum club and is with dangerous Muckmuck clan. Careful. Keep him away from sister.

Translation: John is the CFO of the company I have just joined; (mental note to) thank Jim for introducing him to me at lunch. I owe him one.

Trillian's avatar

GQ. Many of us identify ourselves by the thing that to us is the most important to us. For many people, that is the job, especially if it took a long time to acheive or one spends a lot of time doing it.
Some refer to themselves first as a parent. “Hi, I’m Wendy, mother of three darling little girls.” Because of the importance our society places on individual accomplishment, this trend is not likely to change anytime soon. People frequently give a mini resume` when they first meet. It’s a way of saying how much respect and awe to which one is entited.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In my former career one’s rank, branch and function were considered more important than name. When communicating it was more important for others to know unit, function and level than who. Individuals are interchangeable, roles are fixed. It was more important that someone, upon meeting me, know that I was deputy commander of a certain brigade; they could read my name tag to get my personal identity. Function was more important than individual identity.

Now that I’m retired, I just introduce myself by name. Only in later conversation you might find out that I’m a farmer and historian.

lapilofu's avatar

When someone asks me, “What do you do?” I’m never quite sure how to respond. I don’t think it’s a flawed question, but one that merits more thought than most people give it. “I’m a student,” seems wrong, as does, “I’m a web developer.” Neither feels comprehensive—not even close.

The conversation usually then takes this turn.

Facade's avatar

@MacBean I think you’re right.
GA, everyone!

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