Better icebreakers for remote meetings

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3 min readJun 18, 2024

💯 Today marks the Medium Newsletter’s 100th issue (!). A few crowd favorites so far: the beauty of making disagreeable art, how an intern crafted Apple’s emoji, walking it out, and a library hack.
Issue #100: Apple Intelligence, the case for majoring in theater, and how to reset your status quo
Harris Sockel

Whenever I join a Zoom meeting, the same thing usually happens: Everyone is silent for a beat. Sometimes a brave soul will pipe up and ask people how they’re doing. If it’s toward the end of the week, maybe there’s some light commiseration. People are tired! And busy! Eventually, after we’ve had a vague conversation about how stressed we are, we start the meeting.

There’s got to be a better way.

A few years ago on Medium, Jackie Colburn, a group facilitator who’s been helping people feel less awkward at work for nearly 20 years, published a widely-shared list of lesser-known icebreakers you can steal for better meetings — like this one, which I loved and want to use immediately: “Share your three most-used emojis with the group, and why. Then [put away] your phone for the remainder of the session.”

As software engineer Rob Kelly explains, icebreakers can be a tool to help everyone tune into the fundamental nature of communication itself — the foundation of any good meeting.

Now, Colburn’s back with a follow-up post specific to remote teams. “Icebreakers deserve more credit,” she declares, and wants more of us to start our meetings in ways that energize instead of drain us. Keep these bookmarked for your next few minutes of remote work awkwardness:

  • “What makes you feel a sense of awe or wonder?” (Great for getting people out of fixating on what’s bothering them and into a more open headspace)
  • “In one word, how do you want to feel at the end of our time together?” (Helps people take ownership over what’s about to happen)
  • “What’s something you own that people would be surprised to know you have?” (A lesser-known way to humanize strangers)

What else we’re reading

I never told my stylish friends I was living
the lie after lie we tell ourselves because the truth
is never good enough for us —
to have a place in their perfect world.
I knew the lie was good enough for me,
but it grew bigger and bigger
until it all unraveled.
I was the stutter
the silence
the tangled zipper
the wrinkled linen
the broken glass
in yesterday’s trash.
And perhaps that’s the reason
I see myself
in the rearview mirror
and became brave enough to become a poet.

Your daily dose of practical wisdom: about self-transformation

We tend to set our goals too high because our ego tells us small changes are meaningless. Checking your ego and setting small, manageable goals is the first step to resetting your status quo.

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Edited and produced by Scott Lamb & Carly Rose Gillis

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