8 Cringe-Inducing Ice Breakers

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“Alright, class. Let’s start off with an ice breaker, shall we?” are the worst words a professor can utter within the first five minutes of class. Suddenly your whole body tenses up and you swear you forget how to breathe for a moment as you desperately wish the ground could swallow you up. So, yeah, ice breakers are pretty much hell. Don’t think they’re that bad? Think again because here are the worst of the worst.

1. Two Truths and a Lie

This is supposed to be one of the “fun” ice breakers where you learn more about your classmates by figuring out which of the three facts they share is a lie, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, it’s all fun and games hearing how some guy actually met Jennifer Lopez at the airport, but just wait until it’s your turn. Suddenly, you forget everything you were going to say or worse, get so nervous you forget to make up a lie and have that awkward FML moment when you have to decide whether to go with it or come clean and say “Oh, I messed up. Let me start over.”

2. Dinner Plans

“If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?” Immediately your first thought is to say something awesome like “Beyonce because she’s bae,” but then literally every other person starts saying all this inspirational stuff about Thomas Edison and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and you feel pressured to say someone just as influential. I mean, I guess, dinner with Abraham Lincoln could be kind of fun too.

3. What’s In a Name?

Because obviously everyone has a super cool story behind their name. Oh, wait, everyone except you. This is the first impression you’ll be making on your classmates and nothing says ‘boring loser’ more than “My name came from a baby name book from the 90s.” Especially when you’re forced to go after the girl whose name is linked to royal ancestors in England. Thanks mom and dad for giving me the most boring name ever with no meaningful story behind it whatsoever.

4. Human Knot

Major throwback to elementary school, which was the only time we actually found this fun. Yes, it’s supposed to encourage teamwork, but any ice breaker that requires physical movement and contact with complete strangers at 8:00 a.m. is a huge no-no for college students. Teamwork shmeamwork. Don’t touch me.

5. Name Game

As if remembering your own name wasn’t difficult enough at times, but now you have to not only come up with an adjective that describes you (and starts with the first letter of your name), but you also have to remember everyone else’s adjective/name combination. What’s worse is when someone whose name starts with the same letter steals your adjective, even though you totally thought of it first. I guess, “Evil Elizabeth” suits me just fine.

6. Non-Verbal Birthday Lineup

Again with the physical movement, except for this one, you can’t talk. At all. And you have to line up from oldest to youngest based on birthdays. In the chaos of everyone scrambling around holding up fingers to let others know what month they were born, you awkwardly stand there thinking about how you should have skipped class. All these people tapping you and shoving their fingers in your face is enough to make you want to slam your face against your desk.

7. Telephone

Let’s be honest, this one actually had some potential to almost be fun, but no, leave it to the all the Beavis and Butt-head’s of your class to ruin this along with everything else in life. How hard can it be for a simple message to make its way around the class without some idiot having to mess it up on purpose? Very. Especially when the message starts off with “Today is the first day of class” and ends with “I just had sex.” Stop.

8. Extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors

We all know how to play RPS, but of course college had to turn a childhood favorite into an extreme contest of “Hey, who can yell the loudest?” Once you lose a round, you’re recruited as the winner’s cheerleader and have to go all around the room cheering your winner on until there are two people remaining. Cheering “woo” in a monotone that would make Kristen Stewart proud isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of fun.

Looking for more awkward icebreakers for college students? These will make you flush red with embarrassment.

9. Hey, Me Too!

You know what sounds like a great way to make people feel comfortable in the classroom? Forcing students to admit conventional opinions and facts about themselves to avoid the humiliation of being the only one standing for a fact no one else shares. “Hey, Me Too!” requires students to say a fact about himself or herself. If anyone else identifies with that statement, they have to stand up too. This game encourages being conventional and withholding the stuff that actually makes you unique and interesting, to avoid being the only poor sucker standing. You’re alone, isolated, waiting for others to stand in those painful seconds after your admission. It’s the perfect recipe for an unbroken, thick, pre-climate change sheet of ice over the classroom. “Hey, Me Too! is an especially awkward icebreaker because there’s a physical element to it no matter what version you play and then there’s the chance of being clumsy and screwing that up and making that embarrassing reputation for yourself,” University of Iowa junior Abbe Sindlinger said.

10. Have You Met…

In this game, your teacher plays that annoying friend that can’t talk to girls at the bar on his own, asking you to do all the hard work of making introductions. You pair up with a person you don’t know (aka the friend you signed up for the class with) and get to know each other.“I don’t like introducing a stranger because I feel like I focus way too much on that one classmate and don’t pay attention to any of the other introductions until I say mine. It’s also awkward because not everyone leads that exciting of a life and it’s more apparent when someone you don’t know introduces you,” University of Iowa junior Teddy Hill said. When the class reconvenes, you have to introduce your partner to the class. If you get stuck with an actual stranger, make sure to remember all the pronunciation of their name and all tiny details they tell you so you don’t make an enemy on the very first day.

11. TP Get to Know Me

Your brand new professor passes around a roll of toilet paper and says, “Take as much as you’d like.” Two schools of thought emerge: Those who suddenly become worried that their amount will make their classmates judge their bathroom habits, and those competitive few that automatically assume more means better. Both of these groups get screwed, but especially the latter. Each square of toilet paper represents a fun fact you need to tell to the group. Get ready to dig deep after the first three squares to reveal such candid information as, “I have two dogs.”

12. Arts and Crafts

“I’m an adult. I don’t need crayons to make friends, thank you,” Pennsylvania State University junior Charlie Ocasek said. Not even Picasso would stand for this blatant exploitation and humiliation tactic. The only way drawing a picture that represents our best qualities, goals or interests breaks the ice is through our mutual suffering. Thankfully, this activity probably died out in high school when crayons fell off the school supplies list, but be cautious around new professors and education classes.

13. Name, Year, Major

As much as we may resent the goofy games that make us put ourselves out there, this non-game makes us cringe just as hard. Someone always forgets the required information halfway through and has to stop to ask the teacher for directions again, only to be the same guy with the major that has seven words and a 15-minute backstory. This icebreaker also usually comes from the professor that will interrupt you after every list item, making what seemed like a simple in and out procedure for the introverts into a hot seat type interview. RIP especially to those with unique names, because you know it’ll be a topic of interrogation. “I think ice breakers should be more like games that force people to work together, not force people to think about how they want others to view them based on basic facts. Games focus less on the individual and more on the group, so it’s less awkward for any one individual,” University of Illinois junior Bobby Morales said.

14. One Fun Fact

You may think the single fun fact requirement saves you some embarrassment compared to the toilet paper game’s multiple fun fact requirement, but think again. This one fun fact that you share with the class defines you for the rest of the semester. Unfortunately, this might mean your overthinking causes you to become the boring girl whose fun fact was, “I went to Europe last summer.” “I hate coming up with a fun fact. It’s impossible to think of a fun fact about yourself on the spot. Plus, the definition of fun fact is in itself subjective; what’s fun to me might not be to you,” Morales said.

15. Energy Game

In this game, someone starts with a noise and an action, such as “um” and a thumbs-up. The next person has to repeat that combo, and add to that with a noise and an action with more energy. Your professor finally gives you permission to make the wild noises and random gestures that come out when you attempt to answer reading questions on a reading you didn’t do. Although, if this class falls before 9:30, the professor risks the awkwardness of a four-letter word and the raising of a certain finger slipping from a disgruntled anti-morning person.

*Updated on June 22, 2017 by Marin McCall to include icebreakers 9-15. 

Elizabeth is a junior at University of Washington majoring in Journalism and Comparative Literature. She's always trying to be less sarcastic and always fails miserably. One time she met George Clooney and everything in the world made sense for those precious three seconds.

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