Meeting new people, especially if you tend to be socially awkward and a bit shy, can be overwhelming. You may find it challenging to break the ice when you encounter folks, and you don’t want the situation to be any more embarrassing. Why not make the first impression memorable for a good reason, rather than you being tongue-tied and stumbling over your words?
Twelve Effective Ways to Break the Ice
Whether you’re meeting someone for work or on a social occasion, you need tools to help you break the ice. Here are a few ways you can find common ground and get off to a good start.
1. Be Wry and Wittyappreciate silliness as much as others.
You want to make sure that your wisecracks fall on the right person’s ears, or it can make matters worse. Once you find an entry, inject a little humor, and see if they fall for it. If not, you can quickly move on to other things on this list.
2. Be Complimentary
Who doesn’t love a good compliment? You want to hear how wonderful your shirt looks or that your hair is looking good. Please don’t go overboard with the compliments, as you don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard for them to like you.
You especially need to be careful in a work setting because you don’t want to come across as a schmoozer. However, the consensus is that a bit of flattery never hurt anyone.
3. Talk Less, Listen More
You’re nervous, they’re anxious, and it’s hard to break the ice and find common ground. However, it’s always best if you talk less and listen more. Sure, you have things to say and want to get your chance to speak, but it’s wise on first encounters to only talk when necessary.
You can learn so much more by observing others rather than dominating the conversation.
4. Find Common Interests
Do you like to golf, kayak around lakes, or maybe you’re someone who is fascinated by historical sites? Find something in common with the other person to help make your first encounter easier. Now, it may be tricky to find that common ground when you know little about each other, but you can look for subtle hints to help guide you.
For instance, if you meet a lady executive for lunch to discuss business, you might notice if she’s wearing a wedding ring, has pictures of her children on her cell phone, or has a keychain with names done in beads. All these things would indicate she’s married with children. Though you don’t want to make assumptions, you can get the conversation going by talking about her kids, as this is always a safe bet.
5. Try To Build a Conversation
Is there anything worse than that eerie silence when neither of you knows what to say? If you want to build a conversation, you should try using these four everyday things:
These topics are good springboards for you. Conversely, make sure you avoid the following: religion, politics, top news stories, and anything else controversial. The last thing you want to do is offend someone before you ever start building a relationship. Another thing to consider is don’t ask personal questions.
While you’re sharing your life with them, you want to have them engage in the conversation with you. However, you don’t want to pry on things they might not feel comfortable sharing. It wouldn’t be polite to ask about being married etc., unless they offer such information.
6. Be Calm and Composed
According to the Lead Maker, Dry Idea deodorant came out with an ad that put their company on the map. In 1985, the phrase “Never let them see you sweat” became Gillette’s most memorable campaign slogan. While the commercials showcased sports teams and the intense pressure, people soon used this statement in the business world.
There’s something to be said about keeping your cool when you’re under pressure. One of the most intense things can be meeting with someone new. Assume you’re going for an interview for the job of your dreams. If you’re sweating, fidgeting in the chair, and stumbling over your words, you might not make the best first impression.
However, don’t let them see you sweat. You go into that job interview, and you act like that job was made for you. When you’re calm and composed, you won’t seem like a nervous wreck who can’t handle the tasks given.
When you want to break the ice, you can start by sharing a fun fact about yourself. What have you done in your life that might surprise others? Most people love to hear about charitable works, missionary travels, and other benevolent things you’ve experienced.
Perhaps, you’ve traveled to a faraway land and explored something most people only dream about. Even if your life isn’t that amazing and you have never crossed the state line, you can find one fact about yourself that’s worth sharing.
8. Be Pleasant in Your Approach
If you do nothing else in this encounter with a new person, make sure you smile. A boarding school in Shenzhen faced distance learning and 415 students to acclimate to the new online platform. The school’s principal, Leland Anderson, was quite overwhelmed, and he didn’t want to stress the teachers and students any more than necessary.
He created a guideline for how to get through this terrible situation. One of his requests to everyone was to smile more. He instructed his staff that a smile was like a “breath of fresh air” to those overwhelmed and stressed. When you’re full of optimism and have a cheerful spirit, it makes everything much more manageable.
You might wonder why the principal insisted on smiling when there was chaos all around. See, when you smile, you’re activating those feel-good hormones within your brain, and you’re telling yourself to be happy. Many studies agree on the infectious nature of smiling, and it’s good for your mental and physical well-being.
9. Share Your Experience
It’s always a safe bet to talk about yourself. If you’re on a blind date and want to break through the silence, you can talk about some of your dating disasters. If you’re trying for a new job, take time to share your experiences and showcase your work.
It’s okay to pat yourself on the back just a little bit when you meet someone new, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want someone to think you have a narcissistic personality disorder and are over the top with your opinions of yourself.
10. Use a Cliché
If all else fails, and you can’t find any common ground, then it’s okay to use a cliché statement. If necessary, say something like, “I am sure I have seen you somewhere before.” It will undoubtedly get a conversation going, and whether you have seen them at another time or not, it may be what you need to break the ice.
11. “Hi, My Name Is….”
Sometimes, people overthink things, especially when it comes to meeting new folks. Why not just introduce yourself? You don’t need a prepared speech and all the pleasantries. Tell them your name, and go from there. Please give them the ball and empower them to speak.
12. Show Family Pictures
People love to see pictures and hear of your children and adventures if you’re in a more social setting. Why not whip out the smartphone and show them some of the things that make you get up in the morning. Sharing pictures shows more about you than what some people could talk about in an hour. If you’re trying to get through the silence, then all those snapshots might come in handy.
Another thing to remember when having the first encounter is to focus on your eye contact. You want to look someone eye-to-eye when speaking, rather than shifting your focus around the room. Additionally, make sure you’re talking to them and not at them. Engage in the conversation, and don’t leave them hanging out there alone.
Breaking the ice is not the easiest thing to do, but some folks are more skilled at the art than others. Indeed, you can find something to help you drum up a conversation with someone you’ve never met from this list of twelve new behaviors. You need only to remember to avoid certain things, like getting too personal.
Whether it’s a social situation or something for your career, you want to show up confident, in control, and seem like you’re the most interesting person in the world. With just a little bit of effort, you can have them laughing, chatting away, and have a memorable experience.