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Better Icebreaker Question #2: What kind of art can you stand?

Welcome to my series of better icebreaker questions. Now you can lead better groups and get to know people better.

We've all been in those awful situations where we have to go around the room and introduce ourselves and answer some stupid question. Or those times when someone from the stage is facilitating group activities and we have to go around and introduce ourselves to everyone. No one likes to do those things, especially given the questions we're forced to answer.

And because I hate those crappy questions so much, I'm here to offer you an alternative for discussion starters, silence fillers, and introduction topics.

Better Icebreaker Question #2: What kind of art can you stand?

Why this question is a good one:
Again, we're looking for questions than allow people to tell stories. Stories, after all, allow us to remember people better, as well as offer a chance for the storyteller to reveal more about himself or herself. The way people tell stories, the way they highlight certain parts, what they choose to remember and tell and how excited they feel about telling it all allow us insight into a person more than simply sharing the name of their pet.

And, people's ideas of art always have a story involved. Some people hate art, some people don't understand it, and some people love it to the point of snobbery. And, because opinions of art are rarely worn on our day-to-day sleeves, this question allows your group to get to know each other a little bit more in-depth.

I suggest phrasing the question as I've listed above because it can lighten the mood and direct people into a similar mental framework, getting them ready to share a unique angle on art. Sure, you could get more philosophical and ask, “What artist has made the most important contribution to the collective human understanding of self?” But that would be boring and no one would talk.

By asking what kind of art people can stand, you're bound to get stories of art people can't stand, usually accompanied by a story beginning with, "One time, my wife made me go to this exhibit…" or "In second grade my class went on a field trip…" and hilarity may ensue.

But, more than anything else, you get to learn what people feel connected to. Art, like music, usually elicits something emotional in people. And, the coolest part of this will be that the art neophytes in the group (like me) will usually tell the stories of their friends who paint or take pictures, allowing new people to hear about someone trying to share their talent with the world. Most folks would rather hear something personal than some idiot ramble on about Da Vinci or Monet.

Me? I'd talk about how I really enjoy religious art, mainly from the medieval and renaissance eras. I like seeing how people long ago understood their faith and depicted it in art. I'd share how I think we're in similar positions today – we think we know a lot about spirituality, but it really just comes down to our own take on things. Just as no painting can capture all of our thoughts about something or even a glimpse of religious mystery, neither can our best attempts at describing the divine, whether we use paintbrushes or pulpits, blogs or Bibles.

Deep, huh? It's certainly more than you'd get from me telling you what my favorite TV show is.

Possible pitfalls:
Not everyone loves art, and some folks just can't stand any of it. That's fine – tell them to listen to others. By the time it's their turn they'll be ready to share an experience with art that did have an impact on them. And, because our random groupings may mean that an art theory major will be alongside the president of the local Anne Geddes fan club, you may need to set some ground rules that no one will be judged for their opinions on art (however it's defined).

So far in this series:
What do you think of the Melting Pot?

About the series:
Better Icebreaker Questions is a series to help you have better meetings, gatherings and conversations. Use these questions during your next staff meeting, neighborhood gathering or first date. Thank my by buying something from this store.

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