Your great ice breaker just melted on the floor. Do you know how to recover when your ice breaker fails to start conversation? Follow these two tips and you'll successfully talk to men or women every time.

The Ice Breaker That Belly Flopped

As a new member of the National Association of Pen Women, I don't know many people in my chapter. No problem. Since I'm the Queen of Conversation, I always have a batch of good conversation starters ready to go. Sitting at the lunch table with seven new faces, I popped one of my favorites:
"Modesty aside, what are you good at? It could be anything -- from changing light bulbs in high places to making margaritas from scratch to tying knots. Name at least 3 things you're good at."

I would like to report that these artistic and literary women shared oodles of things they're good at. I'd like to report that my ice breaker blossomed, and my tablemates got to know each other so much better.

That would be a lie.

My ice breaker bombed.

My tablemates looked at me blankly. Silently.

Where did I go wrong? I wondered. "What are you good at?" is a great ice breaker. What happened? Were light bulbs, margaritas, and knots bad examples? Would literary, artistic, or family-centered examples have been effective conversation starters?

Tip #1 - Know Your Audience

The problem was more basic. I had overlooked the Pen Women's background. These were women first, and talented writers, musicians and artists second. They were 50 to 75 years old. Several were Asian. And all, except me, apparently, were raised in a culture where tooting one's own horn was scowled upon. Claiming they were good at something was boasting. And boasting was a no-no to them.

But I persisted. My Scorpio stubbornness kicked in. So did my desire to keep a great ice breaker from melting on the tablecloth. It reminds me of when Larry the Cable Guy told a funny joke and got no response. Then he said, "Hey, ya'll. That there joke was funny," and the audience laughed.

Tip #2 - Gently Persist With a Great Ice Breaker

As you know, people love encouragement. Sometimes they *need* encouragement. So I teased my tablemates: "C'mon, ladies! With all this talent and experience, you must be good at a TON of things."

The lovely woman across from me said, "I'm a good grandmother. I remember everybody's birthday, and I send cards and gifts." Whew! We could hear the ice breaker splashing.

When your ice breaker lands with a thud, don't give up and slink away. Encourage responses and you're likely to get them.

Author's Bio: 

Never be tongue-tied again. When there's a lull in the conversation, you'll know exactly what to do. Get "15 Sure-Fire Conversation Questions for Parties, Dates, and Hanging Out With Friends." Go to

You can download them for free. As a bonus you'll get my ezine with more conversation questions and tips.

Tracey E. Bennett
author of "Do You Squeeze the Toothpaste in the Middle? Playful Questions for Dates & Mates." Now available at