“That’s a fine looking chandelier over there, and wow…. how did they even get that huge octopus ornament into the club?”
I’m never too good around my wife’s new friends or colleagues, especially when she’s just ditched me for the restrooms. More often than not, I tend to seem busy in thought because that’s just me. Draw the “Awkward” curtains, it’s time to sit around in silence for a while. But maybe I could try to start a conversation? Maybe not. But what do I say?
“Hey, you come here often?”
So just before you decide to commit mental suicide like I did multiple times when my wife left me alone with her friends, consider applying the art of drowning out the awkward silence. Simply just repeat these three words in your head until you’re left alone, “I’m not here… I’m not here… I’m not here”. You’ll magically disappear like a fade-out scene and never get to hear from anyone from that night again!
But if you’re looking to break the ice with lesser transgression, check out these tips and tricks to avoid the awkward silence:
1. The Art of Observation
One of the best techniques to break the ice with people you’ve just met is to simply observe before you speak. And by observe, we do not mean ogling, especially at parts unknown. That’s creepy.
Observations that could turn into potential ice breaking questions could be that eye catching top they are wearing, the new mobile phone they’re pressing into their ear or that dapper hairstyle they’re carrying. You can then change these observations into questions such as, “That top is nice, where did you get it from?”, “How’s the new mobile phone that you’re using? I’m thinking of changing my phone” or “Where did you get your haircut from, I’m looking for a new stylist.”
2. The Conversation Ratio
Rule of thumb: two-thirds of the conversation should be about the person you’re speaking to and one-third about yourself. Why? So that the conversation doesn’t turn from ice breaker to “how to shut down a narcissist”. To be clear, the goal is to never impress during the first impression but to get them to impress you instead.
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson, writer at Psychology Today, says that most people go wrong when they try to impress too much, which ends up in getting themselves judged instead of evaluated. By sticking to the two-third rule, ask them anything that could make it seem like you are evaluating them instead and have them prove themselves to you during most of the conversation.
3. The Praise
Praise is a tricky technique because most extroverts love it, but most introverts can see through it. So before praising someone, you have to first find out whether they’re extroverted or introverted. According to Psychologist Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, introverts see no meaning in small talk which is nothing more than a barrier between people and real interactions. If you’re talking to one, you can probably figure it out as soon as you say, “Wow, I really love your hair!”
When praising, it’s good to stick to behavior, accomplishments or clothing because praising someone’s size, shape, weight or looks can go both ways.
4. Look For Differences, Not Similarities
Because we’re all wired to look out for similarities in other people, since we started reading Agony Aunt articles – “it’s best that you sit down with him to end things on a good note because you both have nothing in common” – we tend to neglect the beauty of differences that can make a conversation deeper with more understanding of each other.
Furthermore, being hellbent on looking for similarities can lead us to feeling frustrated so it’s always good to keep an open mind to be accepting and to build meaningful conversations around those differences.
5. Conversation Combo Moves
Success in breaking the ice all comes down to being able to bust a string of combo moves then delivering the final finishing move to make your listener submit by saying, “I really like talking to you.”
All you have to do to create a combo move is to know which buttons to push, and by that, we mean using topics that are relatively easy to digest, and expanding on them as you go along. Topics can be their favorite restaurant to go to or their favorite sport to watch, and they shouldn’t be “what do you think about Donald Trump’s policies for immigration?” Topics that require a certain level of general knowledge should be avoided at all costs.
Do not let topics slip away so easily. For example, if their favorite restaurant is on Mckenzie Street, you can probably ask whether they live around the area and if they do, you can ask about how long have they lived there or maybe what else is around there in case you would like to visit someday.
Yes, You Can Break The Ice With Anyone!
Even if you’re an introvert, breaking the ice with anyone just takes practice and a lot of trial and error. Just remember that for a first impression, you shouldn’t be judged by trying too hard to impress, but be qualified just by being yourself. Keep an open mind, and we hope that you’ll stop pretending to look at chandeliers and octopus ornaments just to avoid an awkward silence.
Featured photo credit: How smart dining will add fun via youtube.com