I Asked 14 People: Who Are You, in Haiku?

One of my favorite questions to ask strangers is how they would describe themselves in 20 seconds or less. I’ve been doing this for years and have found that it’s a good way to start to get to know someone. What do you share when prompted to commit such succinct information about yourself? Are you able to prioritize and distill the details that genuinely express who you are? Do you find yourself overwhelmed — so much so that you crack under the cursory pressure and refuse to answer the question? Do you take a moment to be thoughtful, to meaningfully come up with an assembly of words that crystallize what you think of yourself?

I’ve heard a range of answers to this question that have run the gamut from heartbreaking to inspiring to vaguely offensive, but these answers have always informed an opinion that I have gathered on the respondent. My brother, for example, drew out the sentence “This is a stupid question” over the course of 20 seconds when I asked him. To me, it perfectly encapsulated how uncomfortable he is confronting himself — how much more he’d rather turn an opportunity to reflect into a chance to make a joke.

Every now and then, you’ll also get a real gem that packs it in strategically, in a way that is so organized that it makes you wonder how much time we really need to express who and how we are. Forcing yourself to try it every year is also a great exercise in tracking how you’ve changed, so I’d recommend giving that a try too. But maybe 20 seconds of self-talk is too simple for some. So for this edition of Man Repeller Haikus (we very much love a syllable sandwich here on Mott Street), I bring you a pithy question that ends in a rhyme:

Who are you, in haiku?

Slides designed by Emily Zirimis.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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