Ice breaker question

Ice-breaker question I came up with a few years ago that I call the “off-diagonal” question: Tell me about something you love doing that you’re terrible at. And tell me about something you really do not like doing that you’re great at.

That is from Mike Kim on Twitter.


1. dancing
2. data analysis

1. Sex
2. Failing

It must be hard having to pretend to be human.

A glimmer of self awareness?

No, I am talking about Mr. Cowen. I can assure you I am completely human.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

I am a fellow human of yours. I am just affirming what should be obvious to everyone. I am human.

Tell me what you believe that you know is not true.

Easy: free will.

Prove it.

I can't.

#1 is way too easy (basically all my hobbies). #2 is hard.

1. Procrastinating
2. Roasting coffee

I love leaving comments to blog posts.

We are grateful you are good at it!

1. Sewing. My mother is a seamstress. I went to college and became employed. I would love the time to practice and improve.

2. The second question may take the listener down a rabbit hole. Cleaning. I hate it. Laundry. Floors. Dishes. It's a giant yoke. When I clean after my husband I become pissed. Could he move things when vacuuming? Could he prewash dishes before putting in dishwasher? Where is he anyways?

At about this time you are looking around for the next conversation. "Oh, I see someone I know. Excuse me." Ice broken.

I think I know what your husband's answer is to the second question.

1. hobbies
2. job

Those are indeed the answers for most of us. It might be interesting to be more specific, as some of the comments have done. Not sure if it'd be truly interesting to use as an icebreaker. Our senior staff meetings always start with an icebreaker, maybe I'll suggest that we use it some time.

1. Singing
2. Cooking

(1) Singing.
(2) Treating intrusive questions with derision.

1. Driving. It takes me about a year to parallel park.
2. Working an insane number of hours out of a feeling of professional obligation.

My favorites are:
1) What is something you like more than you "should"
2) What is something you like less than you "should"
3) What liquid consumable in your kitchen would you least like to drink a shot of?
4) What is the grossest item you can think of that can be made by combining two items on the McDonald's menu

3) Drano.

There is only one question: "How much?"

If you need to come up with questions like that to break the ice you need to seriously work on your social skills...

This question is in direct opposition to the school of thought that, if you love doing something, you will be (at least somewhat) good at it. Perhaps modified by as good as one's genealogy will allow. Singing might be an exception, but I think not. I do think some responders are confusing something they enjoy with something they love. Enjoying on a casual basis is a lesser devotion than love. Meh, whatever, eh? I actually think this is a good icebreaker of a question - it certainly asks one to respond in non-traditional directions, and with thought. Of course, when everybody is using it, it will no longer be non-traditional, and will lose value as an icebreaker.

1. cooking
2. math

1 listening
2 reeducation camps

These are much harder questions than they appear. The first is incredibly hard. Love and terrible are such strong words that it's nearly impossible to think of something. Do I love to sing? Eh, it's very enjoyable and sure I wish I was better at it. Am I terrible? I'm certainly no good, but I wasn't bad enough to not get into high school choir. Probably in the first quartile, but not the bottom 10%. After thinking for a while I came to an answer, but only by scoping it very narrowly.

1. Reading Russian literature in Russian.

My Russian is pretty good, and I've even been told that my accent is great. My grammar is not so good, especially for a former Russian major who studied it in graduate school as well. It's shameful really, but I'm conversational at least. I can eavesdrop, hold a casual conversation about petty life things and even pick up a newspaper, but original Tolstoy still eludes me, yet from what little I can grasp, I understand how much more evocative it is in its original form.

The second question is worded much less strongly and therefore easier to answer. Some things I don't like doing and am great at: working out, writing code, doing statistics, making presentations, office politics, writing thank you notes, etc. Maybe I am making light of the word great, but when I looked it up the definition is not so extreme. Great just means "considerably above average." I'm probably in the top quartile for all of those things.

The humdrum tasks and daily necessities are by and large easy to dislike. This is what it means to have long term goals, and not derive positive emotion directly from short term pleasure. That I stuck with Russian so long is a tribute the depth of Russian culture. That I stuck with the unenjoyable stuff is a tribute to the way society is organized to provide the correct incentives to extract compliance from me, so that I may do good for humanity.

For what it's worth, I think we should invite people to share their enthusiasms, and listen. Even if marathoning or scrapbooking isn't your thing, try to imagine a parallel world where it is.

I would never answer these questions. Too personal. And I'm being serious.

1. Making my wife happy
2. Making my wife miserable

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