Breaking the Ice like a Gray Orca in a Vast, Uninhabited Fjord

“Ice-Breakers” are a tool of my trade: a way of getting to know new students at small group gatherings and such. I’ve used a lot of different ice-breakers through the years, but I learned a new one this last year — and it’s become one of my favorites. Here’s how it goes (I’m including the questions, along with my answers, for demonstration purposes):

Question #1: What is your favorite color, and why?

I would say gray is my favorite color because it’s calm, versatile, and simple. It makes me think of my favorite flannel shirt in the winter time.

Question #2: What is your favorite animal, and why?

I would say the orca (or “killer whale”) is my favorite animal because it’s strong, agile, and intelligent. And it just looks cool.

Question #3: What is your favorite aspect of nature, and why?

The answer to this question would be a bit more complicated for me, personally, but I’d have to say that I’m attracted to any sort of natural space that conveys a sense of vast, visible isolation. Like a rocky mountain top or wide open prairie. As weird as it sounds to some people, I enjoy the sense of feeling small and alone in a space that feels very large and impressive.

I like these questions at face value. They’re fun and intriguing. They create space for follow-up dialogue, even if it’s just about colors and animals and natural phenomena.

But what’s really cool about these questions is the way that they might provide grounds for speculation (and conversation) about deeper, underlying dynamics in our lives. It’s been suggested that the answer to Question #1 reveals something about the way that a person views himself or herself. Question #2 supposedly reveals something about the traits that a person finds as desirable qualities in a mate. And Question #3 seems to reveal something about the way that a person connects with God.

I don’t know if these parallels hold true for everyone — but I thought they were actually quite insightful about my own inner world. And honestly, with an ice-breaker, it’s not so much about pegging another person for one thing or another; it’s more about starting a conversation. And I like how this particular ice-breaker does that.

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