What people don’t tell you when you’re growing up is how some things never change.
One of the most hated phrases in the English language is, “Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.” For whatever reason, the “name game” is one consistency that lasts from kindergarten to your last day at work, and it never gets better.
It’s debatable whether anyone actually enjoys sharing a fun fact about themselves to a room of people they don’t know that well, especially when the person before you says something totally awesome or weirdly specific.
A Google search of “icebreaker games” pulls up dozens of articles about “icebreaker games that DON’T suck” or “ARE NOT cheesy” — but do they actually get the job done?
In The Know spoke with psychiatrist Chris Norris about why we can’t stand participating in these games.
“The reason we hate or dislike icebreakers is mostly attributed to the anxiety … of exposing ourselves to people we don’t know,” Norris explained.
Norris thinks the games are helpful, though — just not necessarily for remembering people’s names.
“They are the quickest way to set a mood of ease mentally, and physically get the blood pumping in preparation for the content of the main activity,” he said.
Essentially, they’re great for waking up students who just logged onto their first day of class on Zoom or coworkers at an early morning meeting — is it really worth it?
A supervising producer who works at a media company, and wishes to stay anonymous, told In The Know that he appreciates icebreakers as a way to genuinely get to know the people he works with. Otherwise, conversations can be limited to just work.
“If there’s anything cool about my life, it’s something that takes place outside of work. Icebreakers are a chance to share these things,” he said. “Plus, who doesn’t love attention and a group of people at least pretending to care about what you have to say?”
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t. Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is the most common phobia, ahead of death, spiders or heights.
Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, a general practitioner based in the U.K., told In The Know that the anxiety that’s paired with these types of games can sometimes make it even harder to remember anyone’s name or fact — and the anxiety can stem from two places: either a bad or embarrassing experience prior with an icebreaker game or the stress of public speaking.
“A lot of people overthink their introductions to somebody, and this can ultimately make you freeze,” he said. “I think simple introductions allow people to remember names and faces in their own way, without the pressure of the game. Some games will give anxiety, which will make people more likely to forget the names than remember them.”
But ultimately, icebreakers are successful at achieving the bare minimum, which is to foster “psychological safety” within the room. You might be miserable sharing two truths and a lie, but everyone else is also miserable saying theirs. Together, you are all miserable, but you have a vague sense of community that wouldn’t have been established otherwise.
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