I hate ice-breakers.
I mean, really, who doesn’t? You cannot, in all seriousness, tell me of a single person who goes into a new class, or a seminar, or a workshop, and think, “Gosh, I really hope we can go around and tell everyone our favorite Julie Andrews movie!” It just doesn’t happen. And it doesn’t happen for the very simple reason that ice-breaker exercises are, by their very existence, loathed and dreaded.
Even the term “ice-breaker” annoys me. First of all, why are we instantly approaching every new social environment as cold and isolating? By using phrases like “ice-breaker exercises” and “breaking the ice”, we unintentionally discredit everyone’s ability for creating a warm and welcoming environment all on their own. Ice-breakers seem to imply that everyone in the workshop, class, or whatever, is so completely wrapped up in themselves, or their clique, and would be totally unwilling to open themselves up to new people and new friendships without some asinine go-around exercise requiring each person to say some sort of factoid about themselves, hoping against hope that someone has similar and compatible interests.
It’s not only the terminology that annoys me. It’s also the formulaic set-up of the ice-breaker. I’m sure you know the drill. The instructor has everyone sit in a circle, Socratic seminar style, and say the following about ourselves: name, preferred pronoun, age, what brought you to this class/ workshop/ circle of hell, and then, the worst thing of all: something interesting about yourself.
I’m involved in quite a few organizations at my university, and have had to go through this rigamarole countless times. Thus, I have almost perfected my responses to these prompts. I answer these verbal fill-in-the-blanks in such a way that I’m not completely avoiding the questions, but I’m not giving too much information upon first meeting a group of people. That’s another thing I can’t stand: people who over-share when you meet them for the first time. But that’s a topic for another day.
My go-to self-introduction is usually the following: Hi everyone, my name is C. Harper Gold, she/her pronouns, I’m twenty-one years old, and I’m in this workshop because I’m facilitating one of the discussions (this line usually evokes a murmur of courteous chuckles). My fun fact is…
And that’s about the point where everything goes to shit. My fun fact. My interesting tidbit about myself. What do I say there? How can anyone think of anything to say? On the one hand, I can say something easy and banal, and come off as responsible, polite, and most importantly, sane. Or I can pick something about myself that’s odd and kind of in-your-face, and hope that people think that I’m cool and quirky, which is obviously preferable to weird and mentally unstable. Whenever I’m put through ice-breakers, I usually have a microsecond to gauge my audience’s sense of humor, or lack thereof, and decide whether to say that I managed to keep my carnival goldfish alive for five months or disclose that I’m in the middle of bargain shopping online for stun guns.
I usually manage to come up with something in between these two extremes, like, I am an expert at hide and seek, or in high school, my best friend and I cut the last five days of PE. Nothing too damning, but nothing too prudish either. If I’m comfortable enough to be snarky, I say that my fun fact is that I loathe ice-breakers. I figure that, on the off-chance that I actually click with someone, I should slowly and gradually ease them into the craziness and questionable decision making that are ever-present in my life.
There has to be some better way to begin events besides ice-breakers. Some painless introduction that doesn’t require the attendees to frantically wrack their brains to come up with a fun fact, a favorite animal, a guilty pleasure movie, a whatever. Something that doesn’t make everyone stressed out because they just know that whatever they say will be scrutinized and judged by everyone else and that they will be immediately labeled as “the weird one.” We need a better way to begin because everyone knows that ice-breakers are universally hated, and when we go through the motions of doing them, the event starts out on a sour, artificial note.
I propose that we do away with introductions all together. Seriously. Let’s start workshops and the like with just a brief go-around of everyone’s name and have that be it. Or maybe even just forego that and have everyone wear name tags. For the most part, we go to workshops, and seminars, and classes because the topic is of interest to us. Isn’t it safe to say that everyone there has the same interest? Otherwise, why would they be there? Once we realize that, we realize that there is already some common ground between everyone present. No need to force other similarities. If some people there want to pursue further camaraderie, then let them do it on their own time, rather than wasting minutes listening to people list their favorite Harry Potter characters.
I realize of course that first blog posts are meant to be a sort of ice-breaker. The irony of this post’s topic is not lost on me. But I felt that this is a good way to begin, if for no other reason than to prepare any potential followers for the content and tone that lie ahead. On that note, I humbly welcome you to my world of sarcasm and sincerity, sanity and neurosis, and of course, my blog.
Strap in, readers. It’s gonna be a wild ride.