I actually haven’t encountered this idea for a while; it caught me by surprise when I saw it again today. It was in a discussion section for “Interpersonal Communication Competence”, though to be sure, the fact that the male-female ratio has risen from 10-1 to about to 10-12 should’ve tipped me off that something like this was going to happen.
It should go without much explanation that I hate icebreakers. As always the justifications they give for such things is half-accurate. Yes, if you’re going to work with a team of other people, you’re going to want to treat and view them as something above “stranger”. It is true that an obstacle exists when everything first begins and it is true that the obstacle must be removed for optimal performance, but the process involved with removing the obstacle does not necessitate bureaucratic intervention. It is why the “Peacemaker” or whatever “Initiatives” elementary schools make to “Combat” bullying always end up failing and making things worse than they already are or would be. For getting to know strangers who will be working with you for both your and their grade, no additional intervention is really necessary. You already share the same goals; how exactly you mesh together is a fairly emergent process. It could be said that the existence of “Icebreaker” activities makes things on the larger scale worse over time, because people become more reliant for the most basic and simple things.
Thankfully though, I was assigned a group, and the group was all male.
Icebreaker #2: Personal Values
Look over the following “value items” and select five that would be the most desirable to you. Then, rank order the five values. Discuss with your group members what you chose and why.
1. A starring role in a movie.
2. $50,000 for any charity you pick.
3. A contract to play professionally on a sports team of your choice.
4. A maid to keep your room clean for one year.
5. World peace for a minimum of ten years.
6. Lifetime tutors to teach you anything you want to learn.
7. A recording contract for two years.
8. A nutrition pill that would eliminate world starvation.
9. Your student loan paid in full.
10. A guarantee that you will experience inner peace for the next twenty years.
11. A decent job for life with a minimum salary of $50,000 per year.
12. A dream house built to your design anywhere in the world.
13. Free medical treatment for ten years for twenty people of your choice.
14. Foster homes for seventy-five abused children.
15. Complete wardrobe of new clothes each year for ten years.
16. A guarantee that your parents will be taken care of financially for the last ten years of their lives.
17. One day with any famous person.
18. A long and happy marriage.
19. A church built at the site of your choice.
And, with the exception of three items on this list, we laughed at all of it the whole way through. (Try to figure out which three, we should agree as well)
“A starring role in a movie”? How exactly is this a value? One would imagine that a value clearly defines in a meaningful way the essence of a person, but few of these nail down a person for anything at all. A starring role in a movie could mean any number of things to us commoners, and none of them ranked particularly higher than the others. Is it for the money? Or perhaps the fame? Maybe it’s to work with some really hot actress or a very creative and effective director? Is it for traveling the world? If you want to be an actor that’s fine, the rest of us can immediately know what you are, but we’d learn nothing about who you are. A list of personal values should be single words, or perhaps followed by single sentences to clarify what exactly they mean. The words should indicate something about the person “as a person”, or more functionally, their ultimate preferred modes of operation in any situation. In Jack Donovan terms, someone’s values should indicate to you why you want them on your team. It’s great to want “world peace” or “money for life” or “inner peace”. But that doesn’t tell me anything about you.
Instead of a bonding of truth and honor, the list is instead filled with stuff to jack each other off with. Icebreaker #2 is the serious one; I have omitted the other one completely because the title is “Who Has These Qualities” while the list is completely of things like “Has never received a speeding ticket”, “Wears contact lenses”, and “Likes country music”. These are the kinds of things you expect people to talk about when they’re completely bored or completely drunk, not when you’re trying to read, gauge, and decide how to interact with people in an optimal fashion to obtain the best grade. The TA even said it was a competition – yet he handed out this complete inanity. Is it simply a play fight then? Yes, it is nice to know that the guy sitting next to me also “speaks a second language at home”. But it is good to know that he would not betray his word. Can I know such a thing from his ability to “speak Spanish fluently”?
This is not the kind of thing men in an all male situation would come up with. Could you imagine? It doesn’t even really matter who it is; go ahead and pick amongst any of the men you know at all ages and stick them together in a room, dictate to them some purpose and their assigned teams, and see how they would “break the ice”. Would they ask each other who “Likes to play a musical instrument”? How about who “Likes writing letters”? Or maybe who “Has a Siamese cat”? More likely than not, they’d get straight to the task after letting the obvious one or two people to declare the leader role, and figure out other relevant things as the actual stuff rolls along. Doesn’t particularly matter if you have an accent; nobody really cares where you came from or what your experience back home was like because it really doesn’t fucking matter.
Now if instead there was an all girls group, this is exactly the kind of thing they’d talk about. Hey grrrrrlz~ how yall doinnnn, so liek, who “Has the most pairs of shooooes”? They would “totalyy” agree that the best “Personal Value” is “5. World peace for a minimum of ten years.” It is no politically incorrect statement to note that this extends directly from their “nurturing” nature – that is to say, their complete inability to exclude anything. It is why you can find women justifying mass murderers and having their children. They can’t justify in their heads to actually punish anyone, because historically men just dealt with threats before women could even begin to try and perceive them as part of the group. Because historically they also didn’t really do anything (remember, it’s only been recent history that women have done anything other than cooking, gathering food, and raising children) requiring the intensity of focus and the discipline of skill, they had nothing to actually relate about other than stupid little fucking shit like “Likes to go camping”. There are a variety of other explanations for why women act the way they do; I will not delve into it too much because “why” is not interesting to me. It is only interesting to the extent that it can be used, which is to say that the actual interesting thing is how to work through it or around it. I am not a woman, I am a man.
Thank the goddess that all my other group members were also men.
In a Communication class where groups are assigned randomly, the chance of this happening is a godsend.
There were three items on this #2 list which we all agreed on. This is of note because each of us found that only these three truly worth anything, or alternatively, worth so much more than the rest. The other 16 we laughed and joked about it for long and meandering minutes like they were from list #1: pointless and useless. When we went down the list and encountered these three, however, the leader read it out, we each said “Yes.”, a moment of silence, and the reading continued. It was a solemn agreement, a recognizing of something important.
3, A contract to play professionally on a sports team of your choice.
6. Lifetime tutors to teach you anything you want to learn.
18. A long and happy marriage.
In functional terms,
3. A team of men doing physically demanding and tactically difficult activities with your life on the line.
6. Improvement and the seeking of skill throughout your entire existence.
18. A family, a love, and the creation and genesis of a legacy.
If I showed this list first without the title or any other description, any sensible person would label it “What Would You Wish For?”. Because that’s what this stuff is, wishes. They are not values. A maid cleaning all my stuff regularly would be nice. New clothes every year which I like and fit me and is picked out for me would be very nice. World peace would be nice. It’s all NICE, just like arbitrarily being able to order Jessica Alba or Han Chae Young to ride my cock for a whole day would be NICE. These are all desirable things, and wanting them is perfectly fine. But these are not values. These are ends.
They are points.
They are not functions.
A person’s value(s) is a person’s function. It is their pattern, their way of approaching the chaos of reality and their priorities in ordering and sorting things into sensibility. It is how they act here, there, everywhere. When you read someone, even though what you see is what they drive and what they wear or how they walk and talk, this is the thing you are in the end looking for. It’s easy to see what someone is doing. But you want to know what someone can do, and someone will do.
Due to the facts of physics, biology, and evolutionary psychology, men are built so that certain values are more desirable than the rest. You want men that have strength, courage, mastery, and honor. Though the existence of such an icebreaker was disgraceful and the actual setup was even more disgusting, it showed through in all of us even to men we’ve never seen before (and probably will never see again) that saying that we value the direct proxies of these values is important.
The simple and solid Yes + Silence = Understanding process would not have happened had we even a single female in the group, say nothing of if I was the only male in a female group. Silliness and waste of $15,000 tuition a year and 3 hours a week would have occurred.