People are usually surprised when I ask them to tell me about their favorite scar.
It’s the first thing I ask when starting a new training class, right after I introduce myself. I simply ask the training class introduce themselves by inquiring, “Why don’t you tell us your name, what city you live in and…your favorite scar.”
I don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable, because I want to create a safe environment for learning, so I try to give them a way out, in case they do not feel comfortable disclosing. To accomplish this, I tell everyone to feel free to make up a scar story if they’d like. This, of course, only increases the looks of confusion, and inevitably someone will try to clarify, “We can make it up?” they ask. Of course! The point of asking is not to gain information on current or past health issues, but to break the ice, to get the class talking and hopefully laughing and help them to forget that they are in a room full of strangers in a strange place to be trained on something they have never done before.
Participation is the goal of every teacher no matter what the subject may be. Scar stories provide a catalyst to begin the bonding of the group or class. As the trainer it is always a joy to see a group of strangers who laugh out loud at a funny story, or show surprise because a similar thing happened to them.
The group begins to form and the barriers to learning begin to fall. All this is possible from a simple question asked at the right time. When people are expecting one of the standard, getting-to-know-you questions, like a favorite food or band, asking someone about their favorite scar piques the interest. It’s unexpected, and like a good movie that surprises you at the beginning, it both intrigues and increases participation. I have heard about childhood scars, scars from carrying a child, scars from horrible accidents, and scars from birth marks, but every once in a while a trainee will share a very unique scar story. Some are graphic, some are lovely, some are horrific, some are silly, some are emotional, and some are shocking.
I have also found other ways to break the ice in my training classes. One way is to have the class write three interesting things about themselves, one of which is false. The class then has to guess which “fact” is indeed false based on first impressions. Another ice-breaker I may begin using is a conversation exercise, because conversation is big at Incept! Each person is given a sheet of paper with a series of instructions to follow. This is a good mixing game and conversation starter, as each person must speak to everyone else. For example: count the number of brown-eyed folks, find the person with the most unusual hobby, find the person with the most pets, what’s the weirdest thing someone has eaten, etc.
As an Incept Training Supervisor, I really enjoy every training class that I teach, and I find it fun to kick off with ice breakers!