Published: 26.08.2022

To introverts, a room full of loud noise, rowdiness, and forced interactions with strangers is a nightmare recipe. Being put in the spotlight can embarrass and stress some out. Even more, not every question invites willing participation, especially those requiring people to lay bare their personal lives. How can facilitators be more considerate about people who dread icebreakers, or are not social butterflies? Read through for what not to do and some alternatives.

Don’t #1: Use too specific, close-ended questions, like “tell us your favourite movie from the year…”

Instead, do #1: Use “what if” imaginary scenarios, like “if you won a lottery, what is the first thing you would do?” Or “if you could have one superpower, what would it be?”

Lizzie Cass-Maran, a consultant on content accessibility, explains that close-ended questions exclude people who have not had experiences within that particular category. Some people may not have seen any movies from that period. They may mainly watch movies in other languages or simply don’t have a favourite movie.

  • Which images describe your morning?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
  • You’re going to sail around the world, what’s the name of your boat?
  • What is your favourite breakfast?
  • Draw your favourite mythological creature.

Don’t #2: Instruct people to move around, like jumping or dancing. 

Do #2

  • Avoid using physical activities in ice-breaking.
  • If you must lead a physical activity, ensure there is plenty of space for people to get out for rest, and provide space for things like mobility aids and assistance animals. 

People have different physical capacities and needs. Physical activities can help turn up the energy in the room and galvanize people, but not everyone can comfortably jump, bend down, squat, or skip. Some people have limited eyesight or get overwhelmed by loud noise. Activities based on physical mobility and noise may force people to exert their bodies.

Facilitators must review if the activities are inclusive for every participant and if there are specific needs. In addition to physical activities, be mindful of how you ask participants to communicate. Some think and convey thoughts in words, while others describe ideas better through drawing or nonverbal expressions. A task requiring a specific skill to present an idea might restrict some participants’ thought processes.

“In a workshop I was in last week, a very knowledgeable stakeholder got visibly frustrated with a drawing task, and said “I think in words. I might as well do this in interpretive dance.” And a content designer I work with struggles with these activities as well.” User ‘Vicky’ commented on Policy Lab’s blog post.

Therefore, apart from “what activity shall we lead?” facilitators must also remember to ask themselves: “Do we know our participants well enough?” And “have we created an inclusive space and provided for specific needs?”

Don’t #3: Ask about personal lives or past, such as “show us a baby photo,” “tell us about your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse,” “share with us your best family moment.” 

Instead, do #3: Ask questions that allow people to represent who they are without having to reveal their personal lives, for example:

  1. “Which item on this table best defines your motivation for work?”
  2. “Which item represents problem-solving for you?”
  3. “If you could have tea and cake with any historical figure, who would it be? If you prefer non-celebrity, who would you choose?”

Asking people point-blank to share their lives is a highway to getting to know each other. It also is the most intrusive question. Many prefer to keep a boundary around their personal lives and not discuss it with workmates. Personal stories are a sensitive issue. Asking these questions can be triggering to some people who have traumas or stories they’d rather not talk about. It can turn the icebreaker into an unsafe space and make people uncomfortable, embarrassed, or vulnerable.

Don’t #4: Put individuals in front of a large group setting  

Instead, do #4: Split into small groups and let participants interact with someone they already know first

Some people find activities in front of a room full of strangers fun, while many more find it discomfiting. To people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, being the center of attention can worsen their conditions and affect them for the rest of the day. Facilitators should split people into small groups and encourage members of each group to connect naturally. This allows non-willing participants to stay away from the spotlight.

With these said, facilitators should not force participation. Instead, design an inviting and welcoming environment, and respect people’s decisions.


Cass-Maran, L. (2021, August 9). Inclusive icebreakers.

Chari, V. (2017, December 5). Designing workshops for everyone – Policy Lab. Policy Lab.

Hebert, M. (2022, July 14). Dear Workplaces, Churches, and Schools, PLEASE Stop Doing Icebreakers. Signed, Introverts. Introvert, Dear.

Sedlack, B. (n.d.). Barbara Sedlack’s Icebreakers for Introverts template | Miroverse. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from Bonding. (n.d.). I Hate Team Building – Icebreaker Games for Introverts and Sceptics – Teambonding. Team Bonding. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from

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