What’s Your Very Best Ice Breaker?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

There is always that awkward moment at the beginning of a dinner party — the one that happens right after you’ve all found drinks and are now standing in loose clusters smiling tentatively at one another. Eventually, some brave soul will clear their throat and break the ice. And often, that’s all you need. With that first ice breaker, the conversation is off and running! Are you a brave soul at dinner parties? What’s your very best ice breaker?

I always fallen back on the tried and true, “So what do you do?” when it comes to breaking the ice. I live in Silicon Valley — an area where it’s a pretty safe bet that this question will illicit some amazing responses! Work tends to be a safe bet, too. It’s not so personal that it feels like prying, and it can be a good segue into other topics of conversation.

This said, I was at a recent party where one of the other guests mentioned that the question of “What do you do?” hardly ever comes up when she and her Swiss husband go back to Switzerland for a visit. This observation led to a very interesting and ice-breaking conversation on its own! It also got me thinking about other kinds of ice breakers and how effective they are at getting people engaged in conversation.

I love a fantastic joke to break the ice, but I think they can be tricky unless you’re very confident in your joke-telling skills. I have one friend who can pull this off and always seems to have a new joke or crazy story to tell at every party. I admire his talent at making everyone crack up and relax.

I have also started adopting The Dinner Party podcast’s approach of always having an interesting story from the news to share. Starting a conversation with, “Oh, did you hear about…” and then launching into a description of the story feels like a safe way of kickstarting conversation without it feeling forced.

How do you go about breaking the ice at a dinner party? Any tricks or favorite conversation starters to share?