It’s the first club meeting of the year and the dreaded fun fact has come out to play. Cue the collective internal groan.
Fun facts and other icebreaker activities try to force fun, which seems counterproductive because it is. Any social interaction that feels forced is immediately uncomfortable.
However, with or without an icebreaker, meeting new people is awkward.
That awkwardness is an inevitability; it’s a fact of socializing. No icebreaker has the power to completely erase the discomfort of a new social setting.
Some form of conversation guide is usually necessary to get people talking. It doesn’t have to be effortless if it fulfills its purpose. Icebreakers aren’t the ideal way to kick off a social interaction, but they aren’t the source of the awkwardness.
No matter what, meeting a group of new people is at least mildly uncomfortable. Sharing fun facts may be a cringe-worthy way to encourage people to interact, but it doesn’t make the experience any worse than it already would be.
No amount of complaining about being forced to share a fun fact will change the reality that icebreakers aren’t the problem—meeting people is hard.
Most of us struggle with anxiety around socializing, which is natural and a human instinct; we’re species that depend on others to survive. Being put on the spot generally doesn’t help, but learning to navigate uncomfortable feelings is an important part of life.
Fun facts and icebreakers aren’t meant to be taken seriously. It’s highly unlikely anyone will judge you on the quality of your fact. If someone is that judgemental, they probably aren’t worth trying to connect with, anyway.
It’s normal to feel some anxiety in new social situations, especially after two years of pandemic-induced isolation, when socializing was strongly discouraged. While we can be gentle with ourselves going back to a full-capacity social schedule after two years of lockdowns, we shouldn’t shelter ourselves from manageable nervousness.
Meeting new people is weird, but it’s weird for everybody.
Over the past few years, we’ve become somewhat intolerant of the natural awkwardness that accompanies many social interactions.
We shouldn’t dismiss something because it makes us uncomfortable. Embracing discomfort is the only path towards personal growth, and we should be willing to tolerate some awkwardness if it gives us the chance to connect with others.
At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge not everyone’s anxiety in social situations is created equal. For those with anxiety disorders, the fear of judgement and not being liked can be debilitating—people’s well-being should be considered during icebreakers.
Sometimes we psych ourselves out and start feeling self-conscious or find ourselves competing for the best fun fact. However, it’s easy not to be a judgemental jerk. We should do our best to support each other through awkward social interactions.
Building up a level of tolerance for awkwardness is essential for life as a functional adult; most days involve something that makes us uncomfortable.
Fun facts, though, are a means to an end. They have a time and place and can be effective, depending on our willingness to share and embrace their inherent cringe-factor.
Awkwardness is a natural part of socializing—we should embrace it, not eliminate it.
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