Cold Comfort: Unconventional icebreakers when meeting someone new

"Try before you buy." This is a smart tactic not for investing in stuff but when considering a new relationship, romantic or platonic. When you meet someone for the first time, how do you dig deeper to break the ice and find out more personal information that may help you decide whether you want to get to know them better? At the same time, most of us want to avoid being too intrusive initially. 

An article titled, "Cold Open: Break the Ice by Looking Inside Someone's Fridge: How your leftovers can spark a meaningful conversation" (March 01, 2022) by Kevin Cool in the “Stanford Graduate School of Business Journal” (Insights section) offers a solution. We picked up on this concept as a way to peek into someone's life (or fridge) beyond the superficial. 

Most of us are familiar with the polite, trivial banter we pull out to get to know someone. Before Margaret virtually tutors a new student, she always spends about 10 minutes asking: What is your favorite color? Favorite snack? Favorite thing to do on a weekend? Favorite book or movie? Tutoring on a screen hardly offers access to a student's fridge but does allow a peek into their room or home, albeit it's often a tiny corner where they have their device set up.

Similarly, if we meet someone new and strike up a conversation, there are the usual go-tos, some of which we don't like for the first round such as Are you married? Have kids? Where did you go to school? We prefer to focus on their interests, where they might work, what they like to do in their spare time and so forth. 

Then, we may take this line of inquiry a few steps deeper through a series of offbeat questions. You've heard "What's in your wallet?" in TV ads. If you ask this and they answer, they may not be telling the truth or it's a sign that they brag too much. 

We say go for broke. These questions are more than icebreakers; they can be deal breakers in this clever game of meet and greet. If you feel these cross a boundary, delete from your list. Pleading the fifth is allowed but it might be a red flag. Here are some examples: 

  1. What has been your most embarrassing moment? (Keep it clean.)
  2. What's your highest achievement? (Let's hope they don't answer by saying getting to work on time or climbing a mountain.)
  3. Do you have to count sheep to fall asleep? What is the average count? (Could be a sign they have insomnia and could be crabby to be around.)
  4. What is in your desk drawer? (If it's a gun, run.)
  5. What is your best talent? (Hopefully, it's not karaoke or blowing smoke rings with their vaping pen.)
  6. What is the most exotic food you enjoy? (Eyes, insects and strange body parts are off our list)
  7. If you could change one body part, what would it be, and why? (TMI-too much info--might be off-putting.)
  8. Do you have a pet? What might that pet say about you? (If it isn't complimentary, move on)
  9. If you made a movie, which actor would play you? (If the shoe doesn't fit, smile and accept they have an inflated image of themselves)
  10. If you could invite three people to a small dinner party, who would they be and why and what would you serve? (Gives you a clue about the company they'd love to be with and their dream meal.)
  11. What is one way you tend to waste time? (If it's matching socks or polishing silver, you know they aren't the ambitious type)
  12. Is there something you've dreamed about doing but haven't yet? If so, why not? (This will measure their risk-taking meter which can go from simply leaving the house to parasailing or auditioning for Wheel of Fortune.)
  13. What's usually in your grocery cart? (It's a clue to their dietary preferences and maybe an explanation of why they have a big gut. If it's a lot of food, it can be telling about their family composition. Follow-up questions can be key to good details.)
  14. What is the composition of your gut bacteria? (Let's not get too graphic but a clue to good or bad health)
  15. Do you believe in tattoos and how many? (If you spot on their arm a tattoo of Mitch McConnell, no reason to have a panic attack. Just exit gracefully.)
  16. How much time do you spend on the phone with tech help or customer service reps each week? (If a major daily activity and time suck, you know the person is lonely or needy.)
  17. How many toilet paper rolls or towels a week do you use? (A clue about bathroom habits.)
  18. How many doctor's appointments do you have a month? (If more than six, forget it. Do you want to hear about all their health issues?)
  19. What pet peeves most annoy you? (This could be an immediate deal killer if they cite a few you regularly do.)
  20. What ingredients do you use to make cookies or cakes? (If they use cheap store brand butter and chocolate chips, you might be food oppositional. If they buy the more expensive brands, they might be our kind of folks.)
  21. What's on your device's music list? (If it's country or heavy metal and you're a pop or classical music fan, tune them out.)
  22. Do you have a favorite TV series? (If something extremely bloody and violent, who knows, the person you've just met could be an in-your-face maniac when they don't get their way if you pick a restaurant or movie they don't like.)
  23. What is your biggest fear? (Public bathrooms, bugs, other vermin, airplane flights, lightning storms or your mother-in-law are understandable.) 

Taking this approach is a personal choice and not for all. We hope you have gained a helpful new perspective. There are many fish in the sea, as we say, and we'll probably hook new people we meet in the future with some of these questions. Ask us yours, we're all ears.


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