You can almost feel the dread emanating from students in a classroom after they're asked to stand-up and talk about themselves in front of everyone. It's a feeling that for some, gets better with time, but there's still that tiny bit of residual fear that's left over from our grade school days.
When I was a kid, I always thought college students were basically adults. But when I was in undergrad, getting ready to present a research paper in front of my peers, I felt like the same little elementary nerd with a weird name just hoping a room full of children would accept me.
That same mini panic attack occurs whenever I'm asked to participate in an "icebreakers" exercise.
Whether it's a new job orientation, a group project, or some workshop retreat, there's always going to be some program coordinator or instructor there to force everyone into "breaking the ice" with some lame exercises. But not all icebreakers need to be annoying and tiresome. Psych professor Rachel E. Brenner came up with a pretty dope one, as a matter of fact.
Instead of asking students what they did over the summer, or to tell people an "interesting" or "surprising" facts about themselves that they don't think others would know or guess, she asked for the most boring possible personal facts. And they were pretty hilarious.
The mundane aspect of the exercise alleviated the pressure of students to try and come off as interesting to their classmates or make a noteworthy impression. It just allowed them to be their least-glamorous selves and put that on the record.
I would argue that that's pretty darn cool, especially when everyone and their uncle has seemingly the best life ever on Instagram. Seriously, I've seen baristas with posts that would make Travis Scott second-guess his self image.
But with this icebreaker, you don't have to eat wonderfully exotic foods. You don't need to partake in some off-the-wall workout or rock trendy clothes. You can like Costco hot dogs and drive a base model Subaru Legacy.
As it turns out, other people employed similar icebreakers in their own classrooms, which resulted in some very unsurprising revelations. Like the toothpaste applying rituals of some young adults.
In fact, the "boredom thesis" could be applied to a bunch of different scenarios. Want to have a "most boring story" contest? Just don't challenge this woman's father.
You could spice up icebreakers by also having people tell straight up lies, or asking them to geek out over something they really like. People are always more than willing to share their opinions on something, why not give them the opportunity to? I could talk all day about the benefits of Spyder men's boxer briefs, of why Cracker Barrel's Country Boy Breakfast is the greatest meal ever conceived.
There's something special about the "boring" aspect though, because there's something great about bonding over the fact that everyone in a room is fundamentally not exciting, on some level.
But somehow, it all goes back to toothpaste, in the end. Oral care is important, people.