The Art of Breaking the Ice (Episode 710)

This episode kicks off The Art of Charm’s series on Breaking the Ice. After learning The Art of the First Impression – it’s time to dig into how to start engaging conversations that genuinely capture the other person’s interest.

AJ and Johnny walk us through how to devise a strategic plan to break the ice that we can practice and quiet self-doubt and anxious thoughts.

Beyond the social science, you’ll get to hear how AJ broke the ice with his girlfriend Amy, and how Johnny’s father broke the ice with unsuspecting hikers on the trail.

CHEAT SHEET

  • Break the ice with banter – and no, we don’t mean a corny one liner
  • Learn how to ask a better question
  • Understand the importance of listening – and not just hearing
  • Take away a simple “Conversation Formula”
  • And more!

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Where To Start

Social anxiety affects men and women alike. In our approach to breaking the ice, we’re not only going to break down a strategy on how to break the ice, and we’re going to try to have some fun doing it.

Imagine you’re on Family Feud. Steve Harvey looks to you to answer, “what’s something that people are looking for when they’re out with their friends?” You guess the number one answer: “Having a good time!”

Having a good time might seem like an insurmountable task when you’re carrying social anxiety. However, social psychologist William James was a century ahead of his time in identifying your body language can affect how you feel.

Here’s where the adage “fake it ‘til you make it” is the first step in projecting fun in any room. To learn more about how to have fun in The Art of Conversation, check out our episodes on comedy improv – linked below.

Another way to convey you’re having fun is using banter – and we don’t mean a tired pick-up line.

If we define banter as two people able to communicate lightly without any weight, then using banter doesn’t necessarily imply you’re trying to pick up the person in the conversation. You can demonstrate that you’re having fun, and more importantly, you’re also comfortable with yourself. That’s a great place to start a connection.

Johnny reminds us “Banter is not just a flirting tool – it’s a connection tool.”

Why Is It Important?

The cost of not learning how to break the ice and connect with others is higher than you may think.

Refusing to engage may cost you your job. “Research tells us that between 60-80% of jobs are found through personal relationships,” shares Dr. John Bennett – associate professor of business and behavioral science and director of the master of science programs in organization development and executive coaching.

It could cost you your future relationship. A survey conducted by Mic in March using Google Consumer Surveys showed 22% of 18- to 34-year-olds met their current significant out in a social setting.

And it ultimately could cost you your happiness. Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, writes in the Chicago Tribune,  “Connecting with others is the most important determinant of happiness.” Breaking the ice could be as simple as asking your barista how their day is going.

By being unwilling to break the ice, you could end up unhappy, unemployed & alone.

Action Plan

“Hope is not a strategy,” Johnny hits the nail on the head about halfway through the episode.

So let’s unpack an action plan around how to break the ice.

Step 1. Start with a Question

Questions are a simple way to showcase our interest in the other person, in return they’ll be inclined to take an interest in us. We want to pick questions that lead others to positive emotions, and we aren’t looking for negative responses.

Remember, the quote by Carl Buehner,“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

By keeping it light and positive, people will associate you with this emotion, and be more inclined to connect.

Step 2. Listen

We are all in danger of forgetting how to listen.  We spend so much time on our phones and behind other screens that we miss what’s going on around us.  We miss what people are saying to us.

When breaking the ice to gain someone’s interest, it is critical to listen for what’s being said and also observe emotional cues. By making eye contact and using open body language, not only will you demonstrate your interest, you’ll be able to gauge their emotional engagement.

Ultimately, this will help you craft a better response.

Step 3. Respond.

There is a rhythm to listening and responding that takes practice. But it can be as simple as using The Art of Charm “Conversation Formula.”

Ask a Question + Their Answer = Statement.

Ideally, your response is a self-disclosing statement opening an opportunity for connection. It is important to not respond with another question to avoid making your conversation sound like an interview. By getting into this rhythm of talking and sharing, you are allowing the other person to feel valued.

The most powerful statement you can make is a “WE statement” over a “ME statement.” A WE statement is something that connects us. It establishes common ground. A ME statement is all about yourself. WE Statements allow the conversation to flow because we can find similarities to create a connection.

And when the pressure to have the “right answer” remember this quote from Dr. Russ Harris in The Happiness Trap, “one of the greatest compliments you can give, is being present to another person.”

This formula works in breaking the ice and when you’ve run out of things to say. Simply ask another question to kick off another round of sharing. By buffering questions with statements, you can prove you’re actively listening and will continue to cultivate interest.

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