How to Break the Ice: From Random Conversations to Work Settings

3  min read

When it comes to talking to strangers, where do you fall? Are you at ease approaching someone you don’t know at a work function? Or are your nervous just thinking about what they’ll think of you or what you’ll say to him or her? Learning to break the ice can be a powerful tool used in many situations. It can ease the tension in an interview or disarm an intimidating guest. Not knowing how to get the conversation started or being scared of coming off as awkward is natural. Here are some tactics to tackle breaking the ice.

1)      Give a compliment

At an event and you notice her shoes from across the room? His jacket? Tell them. Giving a compliment is an easy way to get someone to start conversing with you. From there, you can ask a follow up question, either about the same topic or something completely different.

If you are new to the office and looking to make friends, try starting with a genuine compliment as well to help colleagues warm up to you.

2)       Use a Mutual Friend

This is one of the less nerve wrecking ways to break the ice. Have a mutual friend or colleague introduce you. After introduction, you can simply state your purpose. “So, Jane tells me you work at IBM, I have an interest in XXX, could you tell me more?

Or if your mutual friend is not in the room, then name drop him/her to that person. Simply say, “Excuse me, I’m a friend of XXX, he mentioned you recently so I thought I’d say hi.”

3)      Introduce Yourself

A favorite: If you really want to talk to someone and you have had your eye on them for a while, then be bold. Walk up to that person and say, “I don’t believe we have met.” State your name, ask his/her name, and stick your hand out for a handshake. This never fails to get the ball rolling.

Another thing to do if you are new to the office and looking to get to know co-workers a little better. Go up to someone that looks interesting, introduce yourself, briefly ask what role he or she does for the company, and finally see if they’d be willing to have lunch with you sometime within the next 2 weeks so you can learn more. This is a fantastic way to starting building a good rapport. 

 4)      Join Folks

Are you solo at a conference or networking event but wouldn’t mind some company? Look for an individual that is sitting solo or for one open seat at a table. Ask if you can sit there. Then politely introduce yourself and join in on the conversation. Keep the communication going by asking how their night is going so far.

5)       Ask a Question

Just introduced to people you don’t know and there is a lull in conversation? Ask the person next to you the most interesting thing her or she heard or did today. Sometimes whimsical or spontaneous conversation is the best way to keep things light and entertaining. Or you can always tell a joke, if you’re brazen!

This also works for table conversation at events and professional functions. If you don’t know the people at your table, don’t fret! Simply ask an open ended question to stimulate conversation. “What do you do for fun? Can you tell me about your background?”