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home : opinion : opinion/editorial July 27, 2017

5/17/2017 4:27:00 PM
Room for a View: Breaking the Ice
By Charles Wilkinson

Evanston is a socially active community. Its residents gather for all sorts of reasons and occasions where the mix of people can range from the closest of friends, colleagues, and neighbors, to total strangers. For the latter, breaking the ice and finding a welcoming feeling can be a challenge.

When it comes to partying, Ogden Nash wryly suggested about ice-breaking:


Is dandy

But liquor

Is quicker.

There is some truth to that. But even at parties, for some walking into a room full of mostly strangers can be a harrowing experience. A friend handles that situation by finding a nook off to the side to try to spot a familiar face or two before mingling.

Remembering names can be a big stumbling block at gatherings. I once admitted to a friend that I was terrible with recalling people’s names. He said he could solve my problem.

“When you go blank on putting a name to a familiar face, just say you are sorry but you forgot their name. They usually reply with their first name so then you say, ‘I know that, Glenn. It’s your last name I’ve forgotten.’ Try it. You will be 50% less embarrassed.”

“Hmm, Hello, Dale Carnegie!” I thought. “That just might work.”

Two days later, however, before I could give it a try, I found myself in a mixed crowd, looking for a familiar face.

Someone approached, said hello, admitting he had forgotten my name. “Charlie,” I said, without thinking.

He nodded while saying, “Oh, I know that, Charlie. It’s your last name I meant.” Whoa! He had yanked my chain, and I wanted to punch him in the mouth.

Since then, I have never been able to do that to another person. Now I just tell someone my full name and ask warmly, “Should I know you?”

Some hosts plan ahead and inject ice-breakers that win smiles and get things going.

“Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourselves,” or “Sit next to a new friend and tell them about your first name, who gave it to you and how you feel about it.”

Others use count-off numbers to mix a crowd like a tossed salad. Sensitive hosts and organizers find ways to draw in and connect newcomers and strangers.

Warming any gathering requires people skills, sensitivity, and humor.

In any kind of get-together it is not good to be alone. Fortunately, Evanston is the kind of community that knows that ice can isolate and that there is no warmer word than “Welcome!”

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