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What this is

At the start of some EA meetings with small groups (e.g. intro seminars, discussion groups, workshops, etc), facilitators sometimes ask icebreaker questions to get people talking and more comfortable. I collected a big list of suitable questions in this Google doc. (Note that almost none of these are my own inventions.) It's very imperfect but seems useful to share. Feel free to comment with any feedback or suggestions!

I sorted the questions based on how much trust they require. The high-trust questions are for meetings where many of the participants are already close friends -- in most cases I'd oppose using them.

Why I made it

Originally, I made this list because I wanted to try a new strategy for general university group meetings (e.g. watching a video and discussing). I see missed opportunities for attendees to socialize with each other, particularly at the start and end of meetings. I think this happens because some people don't feel comfortable introducing themselves to a stranger. My intended remedy is to say something like this:

Ok, before we get started, if you feel comfortable, turn to the person next to you or find someone near you in the room, ideally someone who you don't know that well, and chat for a few minutes. You can introduce yourself and find out a little more about them, and if both of you want, you can ask each other some of these questions (point to slide with a few questions). Does that sound good?

As a result, people have something they know about each other, and at the end of the meeting they might continue their earlier conversation. I'm happy to hear feedback on this idea.

Questions I removed

I noticed that many questions in the lists I drew from had to do with sexual activity, gender, attractiveness, and I removed these because they seem inappropriate for general university group meetings. (See also these notes from Julia Wise about hot seat / honesty games in EA groups.) Additionally, there were a lot of thought experiments that seemed boring for utilitarian-leaning people, and some EAs fall into this category.




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I think this probably just saved me 0.2-2 hours over the course of the next few weeks (plus some stress / 'urch' feelings). Thanks!

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