How to Break the Ice

I found myself at a dinner with 12 strangers in San Francisco.

It had been arranged by a friend of a friend, and the people who attended were from cities like Beijing, D.C., Denmark and Chilé. We dined and played musical chairs telling stories and getting to know one another. I must have broken the ice 10 times while there.

It's funny to me that had all of those same people happened to be sitting in the airport terminal next to me, it's unlikely I would have had conversations with any of them.

Most days we never meet strangers, let alone have dinner with them. Mostly because It's hard to know what to say. Why we're nervous I'm not sure, but if you arm yourself with an ice pick you can break down peoples barriers with a few precision taps and then *Crack!* you have a new acquaintance. 

Here are a few way ice breaking moves:

I don't know what it is about sneezing, but for some reason it removes some invisible barrier and invites people to engage with you. When people say “bless you” it's a good time to say thank you and then "where are you from" etc. (Hat tip to Kelly for this one)

Ask for advice
This is probably the most effective way of talking to a stranger. Make it general and something they would know the answer to. If they're reading, ask “How do you like using a kindle?” or “I'm looking for a good book, how's that one?” If you're in a new city ask “What's the best coffee shop/cafe, view etc. in the city?” Being a tourist as a great excuse to talk with people. Even stupid questions can work like what time is it? Even when we all know we have cell phones..|

Give a compliment
I should do this every day to 10 people. It's hard to forget  random but sincere compliment. If you want to break the ice you can do it with warmth too.

Find common ground
This is a really important one for business meetings where you don't know the person. Whether it's a phone call or coffee meeting, never get right to business. Spend the first few minutes finding common ground, showing vulnerability, and relating to them. It will help the next 30 minutes that follow out tremendously.

Use your hands
Touch is a tricky one because it can shatter the ice but also harden it if you do it incorrectly. If you can have any excuse to fist bump or high five someone you'll find an instant bond with them. You could pair this with a compliment for extra points. Even funny sign language can be effective, like fist pumps or "raise the roofs."

Go on a hike
People on hikes always say "h"i to each other when they pass or when they're standing around look-outs. I'm not sure why but I guess the woods must have no barriers.

Watch Sports
If you're rooting for the same team you probably already have a common ground to level with them. Secret: This is why most guys get along easily. Common ground can be pretty simple. Hugs and high fives with scores are easy.

Save a life
If someone has had a small accident like spilling their coffee or breaking a glass it's a perfect time to swoop in. Not only should you do this to be kind, but you've just successfully entered their bubble in a positive way.

Fake that you know them
This happens In the movies when a guy pretends to be the husband of the girl at the bar getting hit on by creeps. For some reason if you pretend hard enough that you're their husband or friend sometimes you actually become them. 

Pay for the meal of someone random by you, pick a flower and hand it to them. Surprise someone and you will at least stand out.

Because of that dinner I found a free place to stay that night, and was inspired by some great people.

Next time,  If you have trouble knowing what to say, just take your pick.

P.S. if you have other ideas for breaking the ice, hit reply and share!

LifestyleDavid Sherry