The Ice Breaker
Introductions take many shapes and forms. The cheesy pickup line, the intricate cultural formalities of business meetings, meet and greets, speed dating and daily encounters of strangers in our personal lives are all examples of someone breaking the ice in an attempt to get to know another person/s.
Those of you who’ve attended meetings, courses, seminars, lectures, conferences and any other number of information sharing meetings will have come across the ice breaker. A strategy designed to introduce a group of people to each other on their initial meeting. The format could be a silly game, answering a question, matching photos of children to the delegates or a mixer which entails circulating the group and talking to each person for a couple of minutes. The list is endless. Most people dread them as they’re guaranteed to make one squirm with embarrassment, short-circuit the brain nodes thus creating a void empty of ideas, cause the body to break out into a cold sweat and panic about what to say. Adverse reactions such as these tend to defeat the whole concept as the formulation of a clever, witty and interesting reply tends to block out anything that is said in the room before one’s turn. As does the concern that what one has said is crass, boring and stupid, block out what is said afterwards. If this is the case for the majority of the group, then no one in the room has listened to a word that anyone else has uttered thus rendering the whole exercise completely pointless. So don’t stress about the ice breaker – you’ll probably be the only chilled person in the room. However, if you are the type of person that is going to worry, prepare a few well chosen words in advance. Something about yourself or why you’re attending the meeting maybe. Add something a bit unorthodox into the spiel and see if anyone picks up on it – I bet you the majority don’t.
Having said that there was one time I remember when guest speaker said something that captured the whole classes’ attention during the ice breaker. After an amusing introduction (which in its self broke down a few barriers) we played the dreaded get to know each other game.
“Tell us something about you that people don’t know” she said “I’ll start. I don’t swallow”.
Stunned silence, followed by sharp intakes of breath as the meaning sunk in and finally, laughter. Now that’s what I call an ice breaker. After that revelation no one was afraid to speak up. We found out stuff about each other that we could never have imagined just by looking at them. And it was relevant – as it demonstrated the way we judge and stereotype people by their presentation (which was what the lecture was about). So maybe the strategy is a good tool, it’s just the way people apply it that’s the problem.
Next time I teach I’m going to try an ice breaker about ice breakers. Of course knowing my target group there is a danger that the session could be misinterpreted and turn into a discussion on a different kind i.e. the pickup line. On the other hand, considering my put down to
“I’m stinking rich and you look like a woman I could take shopping” was
“Sweetheart you couldn’t afford me”. Which implied that I was some kind of high class hooker, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. At the least I might learn a classier form of response.