I’ve attended and run a lot of events over the years and the early ice breakers fascinate me because they have a power to open people up and connect and connect them. The first two I came up with, the last three are from the legendary Jack Canfield.
These are best done in small groups of 3-6, though it can also be done in a big group that’s less than 30 people.
1. What are you obsessed with?
This is great because it can be revealing and safe at the same time. You can share a deep fascination or simply the show you’re binging. People laugh a lot through this one and find points of connection they wouldn’t otherwise hear from people only sharing their home town, job and hobbies.
2. What are your pet peeves?
I love going negative because there’s energy there. Like the obsession question, you get to find out something interesting about people, and even what triggers them. It also has the potential to go deep (like causes people care about), or simple (such as people chewing loudly).
3. Sometimes I pretend to…
Now it gets funny. Where are you faking it? It starts out with answers like, “Sometimes I pretend I’m listening when I’ve really spaced out.” It’s great to keep going around for more than one answer. This question and the next ones are really best for smaller groups because it gets more and more vulnerable.
4. Sometimes I feel…
Each person says an emotion they experience that may surprise others. It can be just the emotion (sadness), or the emotion plus a context (Sometimes I feel sad when I’m at a party and I have no idea how to connect with people).
5. If you really knew me, you’d know I…
This is great because it can be about experiences or feelings that are current, or from one’s past. Again, it’s great to keep this going around for a few minutes because there’s a lot of richness there.
After these exercises you can close by having people go around and acknowledge each other. Just a couple minutes with that person in the center and everyone else chimes in (popcorn style) to say what they respect or like about that person.
You can experiment with these for your group, or even use them one-on-one to get to know someone better.