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The Top 10 Best Icebreaker Questions

In this article, I share what makes a great icebreaker question and ten of the best icebreaker questions you could ask.

 

The Best Icebreaker Questions to Get People Talking

 

Are you tired of asking icebreaker questions that trigger eye rolls and groans and yawns?

Did you know that there’s an art and a science to asking great icebreaker questions?

Well, in this article, I’m going to share with you what makes a great question and also 10 of the best icebreaker questions you could ask.

 

An Example of a Great Icebreaker Question

 

Imagine a speed dating event.

Maybe you’ve been a part of one or not, but to give you a picture, imagine two concentric circles, one group of people sitting on the inside facing out, and another circle of people sitting down facing in.

Everyone has a partner and they all have five minutes to speak with each other. Now, it’s speed dating, so it’s all about impressing the other person. So you can just imagine what the conversation looks like.

The story goes that everyone spends their five minutes talking about themselves and impressing the other person, except for one person.

This one person asks every person one critical, simple question…

“What can I do to make you happy for the rest of your life?”

BAM!

You could just imagine every single person in that room gave that person a thumbs up.

 

What Makes a Great Question?

 

What makes a great question, particularly an icebreaker question?

Now, in that particular occasion, the speed dating event, this question, the interrogator was asking was not focused on them, but on the other person.

In fact, this reminds me of something that a very good friend of mine had once said to me, probably when I was in my 20s, the most interesting people in the world are those which are interested in you. Just think of that for a moment.

 

“The most interesting people in the world are those that are interested in you.”

 

And that is what this particular person in the speed dating event had done, is that the question was asking about the other person. And any wonder everyone gave them a big thumbs up.

So you should be asking yourself in the context of building relationships, what makes a good icebreaker question? I believe there is both an art and a science to asking great questions, especially in the context of icebreaking questions or any experience in which you’re wanting to break the ice. There’s an art. It’s something that you personally bring to it.

So a style, perhaps the way you ask the question, but there’s also a science. There’s a framework that you can follow. Everyone can follow to help them be successful.

I’m going to share with you four keys, four important elements that if you follow will always help you ask really powerful icebreaker questions.

 

4 Critical Ingredients of Great Icebreaker Questions

 

Key element number one, start small. Don’t, you know, use a sledgehammer with that first question.

Chip away at the ice small bits at a time. And to that end, start with pairs. As I often say, it’s really hard to be left out of a pair.

So if you start with just one other person, you may or may not know them. You’re more likely to encourage a response when there’s only one other person listening rather than standing in front of a large group and expecting someone from the group to talk in front of everybody else. To that end, kick off with a simple question, something that’s interesting to that person.

For example, what is stuck to your refrigerator door right now? It’s not particularly threatening, it could be a bit of fun, and it just opens up a little bit of vulnerability that helps that ice get broken. And then, of course, as the program develops or comfort increases, you can ask more self-reflective or deeper questions as you go through. So key is start small.

Key element number two is avoid superlatives. Now, if that’s a word you’re not very familiar with, it sounds like a $20 word, it just means when you’ve asked a question that talks about thinking of the most, or the best, or the biggest, or the fastest, or whatever. Sometimes that can really limit people’s reflection when they think of a response to a question.

That is, what was the funniest thing you’ve ever been a part of? Whereas, if you ask something, think of a time when you were really happy, or think of a time when it was a particularly funny episode. In that occasion, they can think of lots of different options, and then feel safe enough about choosing one of them to share with somebody else. So that’s always a safer bet.

Again, when you’re designing any sort of question, provide lots of scope, and that leads me to my third key element. That third key element is honour choice. That is to say that when you’ve asked the question, or you’re inviting people to ask each other those questions, have them understand that we should always honour their choice.

And often when I describe these sharing opportunities, I’ll describe it in the context of when I ask the question of my partner, they can respond anyway they choose, which of course means they don’t have to respond at all. They could respond in a creative way, a dramatic way, a funny way, or if they’re not quite sure yet, they might actually ask their partner to go first, thinking that maybe the time runs out and therefore they don’t have to share. Notice that I’ve provided an opportunity for choice here.

So honour choice is one of the most powerful philosophical frameworks that I have developed and applied as an approach to my work over many, many years now. And it applies to the questions that you ask as an icebreaker as well.

My fourth and final key element is allow time for reflection.

Unlike people like me who will often want to respond as quickly as possible, be the first horse out of the gate, so to speak, that does not describe most of the people in your group. You might refer to them as shy or introverted, however you want to describe that behavior. But there are many people in your group that just need a little bit more time to reflect.

It’s not that they don’t want to respond, they just need a bit more time to think. So silence sometimes, space sometimes can be your best friend when you’re asking these sorts of questions. So allow people a little bit of time to think of their answer.

You might even need to encourage those people who jump in really early to be sure that they’re giving a little bit of space to stop and listen before they invite their person, their friend, their partner, other group members to respond to the question that you’ve asked them.

 

The 10 Best Icebreaker Questions*

 

Okay, I know you’re here to know what the 10 best icebreaker questions are, and here we go. But of course, not that it’s a caveat, but let’s just be really fair.

Is there really just one list of the best icebreaker questions? You and I both know that is not true.

The reality is that every group is different. Every individual who has formed a part of that group also has different needs and who knows what’s going on for every person at any point in time.

So my hope is that while I am going to share with you these 10 fantastic questions that I’ve been using to break the ice for many, many years, you record them, use them, trial them. But here’s my promise is that I’m expecting that they will inspire you to consider the sorts of questions that you’re asking your group right here, right now. So I’m going to actually just read straight off the page.

There are no particular order, although to be fair, probably when I listed these top 10 questions, the ones that over 35 years have been distilled to be the ones that I find land the most successfully or most sensitively or most powerfully with the groups that I’m working with. The beginning, they tend to be a lot simpler. They’re a lot less threatening.

And then as we get further into the questions, they tend to be a little more self-reflective, perhaps a little deeper. Here’s question number one.

 

1. Describe a time that made you smile in the last two weeks.

 

Great question. Now, there are lots of things. I would hope there’s at least one, if not 10, 20 different things that occurred in someone’s life that made them smile.

But notice I didn’t ask for the best or the most powerful smile. I just asked them to describe a time in the last two weeks. That’s question number one.

Question number two.

 

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

 

Now, I’m going beyond Easter Bunny and Santa and all that other stuff, but there’s things that we believed as a kid that actually have a big impact on us. For example, I truly believe this, that when I was younger, I would watch other people around me in the street, at shopping malls and so forth, elderly, just walking along sometimes on their own and just talking.

Like you could see their lips moving. You couldn’t hear anything. And then it occurred to me that you couldn’t hear anything.

And this is what I truly believed. I thought that as a human being, we were given a certain number of words that we could use as part of our life. And these people obviously had spoken way too much when they were younger and now they’ve run out of words.

That was a strange belief. Clearly, it’s not true, but that does make people start to think, okay, what did I used to believe? So that was question number two. Here comes question number three.

Oh, these next couple of questions are just awesome.

 

3. What is something that amazes you?

 

What is something that amazes you? That should start having people looking up towards the right end corner of their vision spectrum to start thinking about things that amaze them. And there’s lots of ways of answering that.

It could be amazed at the lack of something or amazed at the power of something. Again, honoring choice. There’s lots of ways that that question can be answered, which brings me to question number four.

 

4. What brings you joy?

 

Four words. What brings you joy? Wow. It’s probably one of the most powerful questions I’ve asked, particularly when I’m inviting people to break the ice.

What brings you joy? I’d love to hear it. Stick it into the comment section. What brings you joy? I know for me, it’s listening to my little boy and his laughter.

Oh my goodness. It’s unbridled enthusiasm. He just has the most infectious laugh when he is truly having a great time.

That’s what brings me joy.

Question number five.

 

5. What was the last thing you fell in love with?

 

Notice I said the thing, not person necessarily.

It could be a person. But what was the last thing you actually fell in love with? I’ll let you ponder on that one as we go to question number six of the 10 best icebreaker questions I’ve found.

 

6. Tell the story of one of the most adventurous things you’ve ever done.

 

The most adventurous thing you’ve ever done. In the context of adventure, the pure definition of adventure is not necessarily jumping out of planes or rock climbing or whitewater rafting. They’re all great examples of adventure.

But what I’m referring to here is unanticipated outcomes. Maybe one of the most adventurous things you did was to propose to your partner. That’s an unanticipated outcome.

They might have said no. Thankfully, they probably said yes. So that can be really a powerful question as well.

Again, that’s why it’s part of this list.

 

7. What do you lose track of time doing?

 

Oh my goodness. There are so many people who lose track of time.

They get so caught up in the flow. That’s the scientific word for just, you know, absorbing what’s going on around you. I’m not aware of what time and what’s happening.

So what do you love spending time doing and lose track of time?

Question number eight.

 

8. What are you capable of?

 

What are you capable of? Capable means the ability to do. That’s the root of the word.

So what can you do? What are you capable of? You may not always choose to do it, but a great question to ask. And again, honoring choice. If someone is sharing with a partner and that question has been asked, they get to choose the safest option if they choose or something that they feel still safe with, but maybe exposing a little of their vulnerability.

That’s the benefit of these sorts of questions is that choice is embedded into them.

Here’s the last two questions.

 

9. What is a simple idea that you take seriously?

 

What is a simple idea that you take seriously? It can be really, really simple.

Sometimes it could be a framework, a value, a characteristic, but it might be just maybe it’s a technology. Yeah, it’s such a simple idea, but you know, you find this to be really, really important to you. And that you take it very seriously.

Drum roll, please. Question number 10. As I said, no particular order, but this is the one that sits on my list.

 

10. What is something you’ve never thought you’d be doing and yet here you are?

 

What is something you thought you’d never be doing, but you do? What might that be? Perhaps it’s sitting in your office, staring at a camera with all the lights and camera and action going on, recording video that would be consumed by people all over the world. Got to say, probably five, 10 years ago, no clue that I’d ever be doing that. The pandemic pushed that along for me.

 

What are your best icebreaker questions?

 

There you go. There are the top 10 best icebreaker questions with a little asterisk in the top. Of course, you’re going to tweak these according to the needs of your group and of course, integrate your own.

So, here’s my suggestion. I’d love to know what are your best icebreaker questions. In the comments below, just post what your best icebreaker question is and I’ll comment to every single one.

I’ll make a response and suggest to you. Oh yeah, that’s a great idea. I’m going to add it to my list, for example.

Okay, so there’s your 10 questions. Play with them as you choose. Naturally, tweak them.

Add your own, you know, change them around. Completely dispense with them and start with something else. But what’s important is that those key four elements that help these questions help you break the ice.

Don’t get caught up in “icebreakers.” Think more about the experience that will effectively break the ice. Now, here’s a last-minute tip.

If you’re looking for many, many more ideas that will help you break the ice, you can go to playmeo.com. There’ll be notes in the show notes for this video where you can actually get access to the step-by-step instructions for dozens and dozens of icebreaker questions.

In fact, there’s one called Icebreaker Question Exchange where you can download a bunch of cards with questions on them that you can use to distribute to your group. And maybe every time they’ve shared, they swap a question so they get to actually generate lots of interaction with lots of different people in the group with different types of questions.

If you’re looking for some ideas, that could be a great place to go.

If you’ve loved this content, there is so much more where this came from. Hit the subscribe button down below and in particular, hit the notification so that way when new content is released, often on a weekly basis, you’ll be one of the first people to get access to that content.

So thank you so much for watching. I hope you found value in this. I look forward to corresponding with you in the comments below with all of your favourite icebreaker questions as well.

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