We all know the situation. You’re at an office retreat or a company meeting and the person in charge thinks it will be “fun” to start things off with the ever so common icebreaker.
Of course, breaking the ice among people who are not familiar with each other is a great idea. It’s great to get to know the people around you and establish a common, friendly ground for the meeting ahead. But when done incorrectly, they can be, well, awkward. Even worse, sometimes the questions and activities make people uncomfortable or downright embarrassed.
This is something reporter Pavithra Mohan explored in a recent piece for Fast Company:
“A colleague recently shared what might be the most gauche icebreaker I’ve heard,” writes Mohan. “‘I was just at a business dinner where they asked who your first kiss was,’ she said. ‘Why someone thought that was a good idea is completely beyond me.””
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid these incredibly awkward moments. The folks at Fast Company put together a list of eight questions and activities that won’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. Here are just a few of them:
What was your first job—or worst job?
Everyone has an answer to this question, and it doesn’t put the onus on a new employee to entertain or divulge personal details.
What are you reading, listening to, or watching right now?
This question is low-stakes and can span books, podcasts, music, television, and more. (In other words, it doesn’t put pressure on a new employee to think of a book title that made President Obama’s summer reading list.) Depending on the answer, this can also be a launching pad for conversations around the proverbial water cooler (i.e., Slack) or work-related segues.
3 things in 3 minutes
The design firm Ideo recommends this exercise for when you want to “break down barriers.” Everyone in the room has to partner up, preferably with someone they don’t know well. Each pair has to find three things they have in common, in as many minutes. They should go beyond the physical or immediately obvious—as Ideo notes, “we’re both wearing glasses” is a cop-out. When time’s up, everyone shares their findings with the room.
You can read the full list over at Fast Company. Your team my thank you for it.
H/T: Fast Company