As students start up the school year in a new class (or at a new school altogether), or as they find themselves in new social contexts, they’ll inevitably want to make new friends and broaden their social network.

The starting point for any new relationship is the basic act of approaching another person and having a “getting-to-know-you” conversation. But for many, the act of breaking the ice can feel awkward or uncomfortable. These students can benefit from some simple pointers that can help them initiate these dialogues in a natural and engaging manner.

In COMM 3, Rudolph F. Verderber, Kathleen S. Verderber, and Deanna D. Sellnow offer several suggestions will help students break the ice with others in a manner that lays the groundwork for beneficial relationships down the road. We’ve adapted them below. Share these suggestions with your students!

  • Start with the basics. Introduce yourself, and bring up a general (and fairly neutral) topic of conversation. Mention your feelings about an experience you’ve shared (“I think we’ll learn a lot from this class, don’t you?”), observations about your surroundings (“This campus sure is beautiful, isn’t it?”), or other commonalities (“I recognize you from my English class.”)
  • Once you’ve started talking, continue to demonstrate your interest in the other person. Ask questions, and focus on listening to the other’s responses. Then, respond in turn by asking followup questions (“Oh, you want to be an English major? Are you taking other literature classes this semester?”).
  • Don’t change topics abruptly. Others can see this as rude or self centered. Instead, let the conversation flow. Transition to new topics as an opportunity arises (“Speaking of sports, have you been to a basketball game here on campus?”) and bring up different points of discussion when the conversation naturally pauses.
  • Remember that conversation is a two-way street! Open up and share about yourself, then let the other person offer their thoughts and insights without interruption.
  • Take the other person’s feelings into consideration as you speak. Think of how you’d like others to treat you, especially upon first meeting. Try to see things from their perspective and give them that due respect. (Verderber et al., 86-87)

Reference: Verderber, Rudolph F., Kathleen S. Verderber, and Deanna D. Sellnow. 2015. COMM 3. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.


What are your tips for breaking the ice with others? Share them in the comments below.