Break The Ice: Top Conversation Starters For Those Awkward Work Events

Businesswomen talking in office


Mar. 27 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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Navigating awkward work events can be terrifying, but fear not! With the best conversation ice-breakers at your disposal, you can turn those uncomfortable moments into opportunities for meaningful connections and enjoyable interactions.

Whether you’re facing a dreaded networking event or a team-building outing, having the right conversation starters in your back pocket can make all the difference. Buckle up and get ready to charm your colleagues with our top picks for breaking the ice at any work event.

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Get Personal

Delving into personal connections is a great way to start breaking the ice. Whether you share weekend plans or hobbies, it fosters quick rapport and leaves room for more conversation.

Ask about weekend plans: After all, who’s not looking forward to some downtime? That said, should you have something exciting planned, don’t shy away from sharing your excitement.

Example: “Any exciting plans for the weekend?”

Compliment their work: Everyone wants to know that they add value. Even better, individuals often want to feel seen. What better way to break the ice than to acknowledge someone’s contributions, whether big or small?

Example: “I’ve been impressed with your recent project. How did you approach it?”

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Discuss shared interests: While reserved for those you may be familiar with, leading with common interests can be a simple way to create a safe space.

Example: “I noticed you’re a fan of [shared interest]. Have you seen/read/heard anything interesting lately?”

Leverage Current Events

Forget the weather chat! Bring up something intriguing you read, saw in the news, or heard about in your local neighborhood to spark a more engaging conversation.

Discuss current events: Instead of sore subjects such as politics, opt for news surrounding entertainment, music, or similar.

Example: “Did you catch the latest [TV show/movie/sports event]? What did you think?”

Ask about their career journey: Regardless of whether someone leans towards introversion or extroversion, most individuals take pride in their achievements and harbor aspirations for the future. Lean into this by inquiring about the inspiration behind their current endeavors and their vision for the near future.

Example: “How did you get started in [industry/profession]? I’d love to hear about your career journey.”

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Have Fun With It

Ultimately, enjoying yourself is the key to success. Building new connections should feel fun rather than mirroring a chore.

Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions facilitate easy responses, allowing individuals to provide more detailed and personalized answers. In most situations, this means any question deemed appropriate for the context is fair game.

Example: “What’s been the highlight of your week so far?”

Share a funny anecdote: According to Matt Abrams, a teacher of strategic communication at Stanford Graduate School of Business, humor can be a secret weapon.

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“Humor is like a Swiss army knife. It allows you to connect with your audience, it can diffuse tension, elevate status, compel others to your point of view, and that’s not all,” he said during a 2020 podcast. “Humor can help you and your message stand out, yet most of us hesitate to use humor, especially in our professional lives.”

Example: “You won’t believe what happened to me on my way to work today. Have you ever experienced something similar?”

Offer a genuine compliment: When in doubt, opt for flattery, but be sure to pay close attention to the specifics. Did the individual get a haircut? Has the person switched up their in-office style? Have you noticed someone putting in the extra effort and hours? It’s often the smallest details that make an impact.

Example: “I’ve always admired your [specific trait/skill]. It shines through in your work.”

In summary, you have ample tools at your disposal for breaking the ice. Be true to yourself. Remain receptive. Be willing to try some of the above strategies to make your next work event a little less awkward.

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By: Truth Hawkins

Truth Hawkins, a seasoned wordsmith with over a decade of experience spanning entertainment, culture, and lifestyle news, navigates the dynamic landscapes of pop culture, lifestyle, and music. More than a reporter, Truth is a dedicated storyteller, unearthing narratives that deeply resonate with readers and invites them to engage in meaningful conversations.

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