Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

One interesting thing about you

Brett Levin Flickr
(Brett Levin Flickr)

“Let’s start with an icebreaker: how about your name, grade, major, and one interesting thing about yourself?” If there is one thing that definitely makes me feel more comfortable around a large group of strangers, it is listening to dozens of people mumble about the sports they play, what their parents do, or that C-list celebrity who used be their neighbor. Managing to mispronounce my own name in front of dozens of people does loads for my confidence. While we’re at it, why not toss in a voice crack for good measure?

In the past, I have answered the dreaded “one interesting fact about yourself” question with varying strategies and to varied results. One personal favorite of mine is the flat-out lie method: I wrestle polar bears. Who are you to say that I don’t wrestle polar bears? The group I am introducing myself to, or rather the half of the group that isn’t staring off into space waiting for the icebreaker activity to be over, certainly isn’t going to fact check me.

There is also the vacation method: tell them what foreign country you spent a week in with your parents during your sophomore year of high school and hope that the interesting things about the foreign country somehow carry over to you by some illegitimate transitive property. I recall once waiting for my turn to tell a fact about myself at a club meeting when the three people preceding me all gave their heights as their interesting facts. I’ll be the first to admit that my above-average height is by far my best quality which does wonders to cover up my otherwise mediocre personality, but to call a count of feet and inches “interesting” is to demonstrate a reckless disregard for the sanctity of dictionaries, which define interesting as “attracting your attention and making you want to learn more about something or to be involved in something; not dull or boring.”

Everyone is interesting in his or her own way. That does not necessarily translate well into a funny anecdote to share with people. I would like to think that everyone, myself included, has a short-lived existential crisis when asked to think of something interesting about themselves. I’m not the only one who forgets about everything I’ve ever said or done. I think it is okay to be conventionally uninteresting. I am a business-major whose favorite song is “Stairway to Heaven” and whose favorite show is “Game of Thrones.” Hobbies include hanging out with friends, reading and listening to music. When I’m not busy trying to live my life as I imagine a loaf of bread would if it came to life, I tend to enjoy a pleasant if not unremarkable existence; I have good friends, a good family and a good school. There’s no pressure for me to go have some adventure that I can tell my intro-to-whatever class about during syllabus week.

I think the best icebreakers are the ones that require thought and allow you to express yourself without being too personal. Open-ended questions allow for greater creativity than just having to bullet point some facts about yourself. The unique ways in which one may answer open-ended questions tells you more about who they are. For example, you may ask the classic “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” If they go with the tiny horses, you can ask them about their reasoning and how they think they’d fair in the fight. If they go for the giant duck then you know they are an absolute fool with no mind for fighting strategy and should be immediately removed from your group.

In all seriousness, the ways people answer questions like these are more likely to attract your attention and make you want to learn more about the individual than a dull and boring personal fun fact. You can be scholarly, blunt, boring or confident without being weighed down by your relative inexperience.

They allow someone like me to reveal an inclination towards self-deprecating humor in a way that I cannot through an interesting fact. Therefore, I appeal to you, collegian reader: if you find yourself in a position of authority over a group and feel the need to facilitate quasi-bonding via icebreaker, do not use the default “one interesting thing about yourself.” Be creative so that your group can demonstrate their creativity, both to you and to each other.

Dan Riley is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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