Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ice Breakers

My friend Kaytlynn recently wrote about things that make her feel uncomfortable that totally shouldn't, all of which I could completely relate*.

*Follow her blog.  If you like mine, you will love hers.

The first of those things was ice breakers.  You know, those "games" that bosses, trainers, or orientation leaders use to start a group session in order to get everyone relaxed and acquainted with one another.

Ice breakers aren't too distressful for me.  My heart rate increases a bit as it nears my turn, but otherwise, I don't fear saying a sentence or two in front of a group of strangers.

Most of my anxiety comes from listening to the other people.  I can't stand watching someone crash and burn.

As a result, I find myself smiling in moral support as they sheepishly try to describe to the group their love for different types of shoes.

"My name is Katie-Lee and I love shoes," a red-faced girl says to the group, though she only looks at the discussion leader.

"I mean, I'm not like obsessed with shoes," she corrects herself.  "But I have a lot."

She's crashing.  And burning.

"Not, like, a lot of shoes.  But more than most people."  She shakes her head and then adjusts her hair, guiding it back behind her ears, as if that will put her back on track.

"I've been collecting them for a while, and I have so many that I don't really wear them that often, so they don't wear out.  And my feet stopped growing when I was, like, seven.  So I've had a lot of time."

And I'm just standing there, nodding my head emphatically, as if I completely understand what she's talking about.  I don't have a clue, of course.  But I hate seeing this kind of social awkwardness, and I just want it to be over for her.

And for us.

My awkward smiling and nodding has turned it into less of an ice breaker and more of a support group, and all I want to do is convey the fact that none of us are judging her because none of us give a shit about what she is talking about in the first place.

Which kinda defeats the purpose of ice breakers.

The most damning piece of evidence in the ineffectiveness of ice breakers is the fact that everybody pays attention to the first guy, but nobody pays attention to the last guy.

It is really an issue of nerves.  Everyone listens to the first guy as a litmus test to discover the type, quality, and quantity of information that is given, as well as the sentence structure under which the information should be said.

It's like Mad Libs:

"Hi, my name is _____________ and I am from _____________ and in my spare time I like to __________________."

Once the structure of the statement is actually set, everyone mentally checks out.  They stop listening to the next person and instead begin formulating what they are going to say when it is their own turn, trying to come up with the perfect factoid to share that will make themselves seem interesting, but not too weird... and then tweaking it as they half-listen to the other people offering their factoids.

By the time the last guy is taking his turn, nobody is listening anymore, because there is really no reason to.  Everyone else has already taken their turn, and the gunk in their fingernails is going to be more interesting than whatever it is that he has to say.

And then it gets back to the discussion leader, or The Ice Queen as I like to call her.  She has saved herself for last, and looks up to the sky to retrieve her own "fun fact," as if she hasn't been planning what she was going to say for months.

I can't say I blame her, though.

When it is my turn, I have three interesting facts already in mind.  They are my go-to interesting facts, and if you don't have them, I suggest that you do.  It should be something quirky that can be guaranteed not to be said by someone else.  And it has to be something that makes the other half-listeners lift their heads quizzically, hopefully making them completely rethink what they were going to say.  Preferably, it should be something that makes someone want to ask a follow-up question.

Here are my three go-to fun facts:

  1. I can solve a Rubix cube in two minutes.
  2. When I was eleven, I won a contest and illustrated a book about smoking cessation.
  3. I own a square inch of land in Texas.
  4. The singer Meatloaf said that I was the nicest boy he has ever met.

Those are actually four fun facts.  One of them isn't actually true.  I'll let you guess and I'll post the answer next time*.

*Unless I forget, because I probably wrote this two or three weeks ago and waited to post it until today**, in which case please remind me.

**But your "today" is actually my future and my "today" is your past.  I suppose that such a thing can be applied to all correspondence between reader and writer, but I just wanted to point out that me, right here in your past, is literally saying "hello" to you, as in .................    Hello Future Reader!

Anyway, the next time I'm in an ice breaker, I think that I'm gonna switch it up and say something else instead of my go-to-3.

Something that everyone is sure to remember.

Something like, "I like to collect baseball cards, and I also have anal fissures."

While it might not achieve the desired result of making things less awkward, it would certainly break the ice.

-Youngman Brown

Note from the author: While writing this, I did not actually know what anal fissures were, and I made the grave error of being in "Image Search" mode while Googling it.  If you also don't happen to know about anal fissures and want to research it, please, don't make this mistake.  The tab is actually still open at the top of my browser, and I'm scared to click the "x" because I'm not sure if that will make it pop up for a split second before it closes.

17 comments:

  1. Anal fissures sounds gross enough to not google it. I will take your word for it!

    It all depends on what kind of group I'm in for what kind of ice breaker I will throw out there. If it was like an AA meeting I would go with something like "Hi, my name is Dan and I beat the living shit out of a case of beer every day." Because the usual "Hi, my name is Dan and I'm an alcoholic" is just too routine!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay, so here's my factoid: My name is Kianwi and I google image anal fissures when someone tells me not to because I am highly suggestible and a complete idiot with now-ruined eyes.

    Which of those aren't true??? I can't figure it out! I can't imagine how you could solve a Rubik's cube in 2 minutes, but then you are super smart, so I'm guessing you could. #2 sounds plausible, I don't understand why #3 would be, but it's odd enough it could be true, and #4 seems possible, cause you ARE an extremely nice boy (man). Hmmm...I will guess #3, but don't forget to tell us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So happy to read this post! I love it, and your factoids!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. In college I had a professor who, as an icebreaker, had us say our name and the name of a food that started with the first letter of our name. As we went around the room we had to repeat all the previous people's names and foods. It was beyond stressful as I am horrible with names in the first place. But even more than that I learned to really, really hate that professor. She was entirely too upbeat and bubbly. I wish it had been as simple as three factoids!

    ReplyDelete
  5. My fun factoid is always, 'I have both ridden and eaten a camel.' (Dramatic pause) 'Not the same one!' (Polite laughter). i think I might be the Ice Queen, and that makes me sad. (I guess your made up fact is the square inch of Texas.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Meat Loaf couldn't have told you that you were the nicest boy he'd ever met because he told me that I'm the nicest boy he'd ever met (I had THE surgery). HA!

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  7. "My name is Kat and I hate ice-breaker games. And since you're probably not paying close attention to what I'm saying I'll add that I haven't been listening to you either."

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm usually cool until it comes time for the trust fall because I ALWAYS have the urge to pull my hands back and go "I don't know you...fend for yourself!" I'm a team player like that.

    My fun factoids:
    1. Highlights could NEVER hide items from me! I'm the master of search and find.
    2. I'm several people's shovel buddy.
    3. I'm unnaturally obsessed with TinkerBell but even I think people with a tattoo of her are dumbasses.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've used "My name is Candice and I had three broken ankles within an 8-month period."

    It's not as good as any of yours, but it's one of my reliable go-to answers. I hate those ice-breaker games. The only thing about them that breaks any ice is everyone's shared hatred of ice-breaking games. Irony? Perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I try to use factoids that will make people laugh, but scare them enough to not want to pursue spending time with me. I already have enough friends, and I want to use my breaks to catch up on Words With Friends, not chit-chat about your anal fissures.

    So, I tell them:
    When I was 12, I won tickets to the Michael Jackson Victory Tour, because every day after school I went into the grocery store, and stole ALL the entries so no one else could enter. Then, my parents got into a bidding war for who got to accompany me. This was all before Michael Jackson was white, weird, and dead. Obviously.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I hate the ice breaker game too. Something else that makes me nuts is that in every gathering of people who don't know each other there is always one loudmouth who makes too many comments, asks too many questions and generally makes the gathering carry on way longer than is necessary. Wow. That felt good to get that off my chest. It might become a blog.post. Domino effect!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am usually the person leading the ice breaker games, but I make mine much more interesting.

    My three interesting things.
    1. I have drug Adam West out of a bar and put him in bed...twice!
    2. I married a woman on the weekend of her family reunion so they would all be in town and the next day at the reunion we discovered that we were already cousins...not first cousins.
    3. I recently got into a knife fight with a girl, but she had the only knife.

    I believe your TX fact is the lie.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm going to say that your Rubix Cube fact is fake, because it sounds plausible. I reckon it's a double bluff.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I hate the ice breaker game and all the other "games" that companies decide that their employees need to play at company meetings.

    My old company would randomly team people up and make us perform "team building" exercises. The problem was that none of us really knew each other because we never worked together, nor would likely ever work together.

    So what was the damn point?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Your such an empathic soul, Youngman, feeling other people's pain and awkwardness. You must learn to develop some psychopathy otherwise you'll burn out before you're much older!

    ReplyDelete
  16. The best part about the whole ice breaker thing is that after people list their mundane 'facts,' like the 'I collect shoes' girl, no one remembers her anyway. Your facts need to be interesting to be memorable.

    My fun facts:
    I was once featured in the Club Lego Magazine for a 2 foot tall Bugs Bunny I made out of Legos.
    I've never been drunk (I process alcohol way, way faster than most, it seems).
    In tracing back our family tree, I found out that my great-great-great(etc) grandfather was Christopher Columbus's right hand man, who sailed with him to America.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have the same issue with alcohol, although I can't say I have never been drunk. I have to drink a lot very quickly in order to get drunk and haven't felt the desire do that since my early 20's.

      My father was the same way. I tell people about this and they don't believe me. You are the first other person I have heard of that has this.

      Delete

When you comment, I vibrate.