Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Awkward Classes with Awkward Classmates: ICEBREAKERS

Student #1: “Hey is this seat taken?”
Student #2: “Hi, no it’s free.”
#1: “Thanks. What’s your name?”
#2: “I’m ----, what’s yours?”
#1: “My name is -----.”
#2: “Nice to meet you.”
#1: “Nice to meet you too.”
**awkward silence

#1&2: “So, what are you taking?”
**awkward chuckling

#1: “You go first”
#2: “ok! I’m in ----.”
#1: “Cool!”
#1: “What about you?”
#2: “I’m taking ----.”
#1: “Awesome!”
**awkward silence

#2: “It’s really nice out today isn’t it?”
#1: “It really is!”
**awkward silence…

Whether you are a first year student or in the final year of your Masters, we have all encountered a situation similar to this. No matter how many times we tell ourselves not to get sucked into chanting the redundant mantra of university introductions, we constantly find ourselves in situations where the above conversation ensues. We all know that classrooms are breeding grounds for awkward situations, so let me apologize in advance if this article stirs up cringe-worthy memories. 

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Memories like that time your prof…actually, all of your profs, said, “I want each person to tell the class what they are studying, their favourite food, and something interesting about themselves.” Suddenly, you felt as though you were the most boring person in the world, and you racked your brain for something to say that wasn’t too haughty but not too boring either. Panic ensued when the person right before you took your idea and said what you were going to say, forcing you to blurt out some lame last minute thought so that you don’t look like a copycat. 

As much as you probably dislike teacher-made icebreakers, you must realize that this is a professor’s desperate attempt at saving you from having to strike up an awkward conversation on your own. What about the classes where everyone is too afraid to participate, and the professor’s question is left hovering ominously in the air, like a dark cloud of awkwardness. Or that time the professor made a joke and only one student laughed, a little too loudly. Yikes! Just the thought of these situations makes me shudder. You may be asking, so Niabi, what exactly are you getting at? I am saying that us students need to burn our conversation guidebooks and shake the dust from our thinking caps because its time for us to become more original when it comes to chatting. 

Here are some tips to help you shatter the ice and as a bonus, I've added a few questions to help stimulate more interesting discussions when meeting new classmates:

1) “Good” is Not Good Enough: 

Remember, if someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t just say good. Say that you are doing fantastic, or incredible and then tell them WHY. The key is to keep the conversation going right? So avoid making finalized statements. Instead, give your fellow classmate a longer answer to a simple question so that they get some prompts as to what you can both talk about next. 

2)    “Nice Shirt”: 

Start with a positive compliment. Regardless of whom you are talking to, being open and nice to another person will almost always be received well, unless you’re talking to the Grinch. One thing will lead to another until eventually you both have something to talk about. “Where did you get the shirt from?” / “I love that place I shop there all the time!” / “What does that logo mean?”/ “You love Star Wars?! I love Star Wars!” etc.

3)    Be open to new conversation: 

This is a very important thing to keep in mind. No one is going to introduce themselves to someone who has their headphones in, or their arms crossed protectively in front of them. If you want others to reach out to you, make yourself look friendly and approachable. Smile at other people; make space for classmates who are looking for a seat. Why not say “Hey this seat is empty, come sit with me!”

4) Names Can Be Topics Too: 

This can be as simple as “Your name sounds so cool! Does it have a meaning? Where you named after someone?” Who knows where the conversation will go?

5) “Would You Rather...”: 

Everyone knows how to play “Would You Rather”, and pretty much everyone enjoys it, ESPECIALLY when the categories are funny or really difficult. Here are a few suggestions: Would you rather…

  • Go about your normal day naked or fall asleep for a year?
  • Be a dragon or have a dragon?
  • Live one 1000-year life or live ten 100-year lives?
  • Have hiccups for the rest of your life or feel like you need to sneeze and not be able to for the rest of your life?
  • Always have to say everything on your mind or never speak again?
  • Be able to fly or be invisible?
  • Be 3 feet shorter or 3 feet taller?
  • Have one wish granted now or 3 wishes granted in ten years?

6) “What do you think about (insert controversial topic here)”: 

Asking for someone’s opinion on something is a sure way to get them talking, and if its something you both share a passion for, it is guaranteed that you will have something to talk about. Keep in mind, however, that there will be people who have opinions different to yours, so try to keep the topics carefree and impersonal.  

7) What Would You Do Situation: 

The options for this conversation starter are endless. From “What would you do in a zombie apocalypse?” to “What would you do if this was your last day on Earth?”

8)    Conversation Starter Questions: 

Yes, I admit that some are cliché, but these questions will lead to answers that are much more interesting than “I’m in my second year.” 

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Do you have any siblings?
  • What are you most proud of yourself for?
  • What age do you normally get mistake for?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • Do you have any weird/hidden talents?
  • What is the most beautiful place you have travelled to?
  • Where do you want to travel?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Do you have any bad habits?
  • Are you part of any clubs at the U of A?
  • Do you have any phobias?
  • What are your goals for the future?
  • Do you think there is life out there? 
  • What’s your middle name?
  • Do you speak any other languages?
  • Do you have a job?
  • What makes you really happy?

So, if awkward silence is your style, then keep doing what you do, but know that if I sit beside you in class tomorrow, I’m ready to chip away the ice. 

Do you have an awkward icebreaker story to share? Well we want to hear it! Feel free to join the party and leave a comment below!

Niabi - YouAlberta Contributor

Niabi is a third year student just starting a BA in English with a Spanish Minor. She’s a relentless optimist, hazardously curious, and tends to laugh a lot (her friends would say that she has a juvenile sense of humour). When not spending money she doesn’t have on clothes, or jamming out to Reggaeton, you can find her in a movie theatre, reading a book that involves sword fighting and dragons. 


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