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Better Icebreaker Question #4: What's your high and low?

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 #4: What's Your High and Low From the Past Week?

Why this question is a good one:
We've been trying to come up with questions that allow people to tell stories, because stories make us remember better. Stories convey information in a way that we remember because there are distinct parts to the information shared, such as a beginning, an end, a conflict and its resolution.

And, so, this question about high points and low points always comes with a story attached.

This is a question my family has been doing for years, after my mom saw The Story of Us and declared that the only redeeming feature of the entire film was this dinner-table ritual. Since then, we've incorporated it into our Sunday brunches, our vacations, our holiday meals, and nearly any other gathering that provides time for sharing and updates.

I've used this question in my weekly meetings with teenagers and in church gatherings. At first, many attendees are a bit apprehensive, but over the course of a few weeks, once they begin to see that this is a staple and a routine, many even begin to come prepared with an answer.

One of the best things about this question is that it allows for coworkers and colleagues to see the life side of peoples' work/life balance. You begin to hear about someone else's trip to the mall, a kid's soccer game, a humorous anecdote about grocery shopping or driving, a deep story about meeting someone for the first time, a horror story about a date, or anything else that happens to us outside of our working hours. In essence, this question allows us to see that there are real people at our conferences and staff meetings. This then helps shape how we communicate during the rest of our time together.

We begin our time at the story each week with this simple question. We then go around the circle allowing each person to answer the question as he or she chooses. We hear about how someone hates their job, we hear about the mother that is coming for a visit, and we hear about the great concert someone went to. We hear about life. And that's really what we're all running around trying to find: some other people to live experience with.

So, this is a great, albeit disarming and nearly intimate, question, which is why we've saved it for last. Dare to peel back the bureaucratic layers of corporate isolation and professionalism and open your meetings and gatherings with honest confession of what life is like on the outside. We promise that the risk of vulnerability is well worth the reward of getting to know someone a little bit better.

Possible pitfalls:
As I've alluded to, this question works best in settings where people meet on a regular basis. And, it may take a few times for people to get in the swing of answering it. Therefore, it may not work as well as a workshop where attendees will see each other once and then disperse elsewhere. But, don't let that stop you from trying it. We've been surprised at what people have been willing to share even in settings where they're meeting others for the first time.

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

What kind of art can you stand?

Who's Your Favorite Fringe Character?

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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