From my observation, when we’re asked, “Do you enjoy it?” in reference to our line of work, we translate that question as, “Does what you do make you happy?” Perhaps we don’t directly ask, “Does what you do make you happy?” because it feels too personal and when we have this conversation it is often with strangers. “Do you like what you do?” feels like a natural segue from, “What do you do?”

If we like what we do, we say things like, “Yeah, it’s really interesting,” which falls somewhere on the spectrum of, “I am not bored, I do not find my work pointless, and I do not have co-workers nor a boss who get in the way of letting me do what I’m supposed to,” to “I learn new things every day, I love it.” If we are socially astute and we do not like what we do, and it is a stranger or distant family member who asks us, we bend the truth and say something like,
“Yeah, I’ve really learned a lot” which translates into, “I’m ready for something else.”

When so many times the conversation plays out with a stranger, why do we ask each other at all? The question, translated, “Are you happy?” is very personal. Do we really expect someone to say no?

Perhaps we ask each other because we consider it polite, in the same fashion as saying, “Good morning, how are you?” to a coworker. Perhaps we ask each other because we are exploring new opportunities and really want to know the answer. Given that research tells us we can assume what makes others happy will also make us happy, this is a valid approach to exploration. Perhaps we ask each other because we really want to know, searching for someone else we can relate to in our journey of searching for ourselves.