Are You Willing to Take a Provocative Stand in a Training Class?

Use Various Controversial Issues to Encourage Your Participants to Take a Stand

Mixed race business women take a stand during a provocative ice breaker.
••• Dave and Les Jacobs / Getty Images

Take a Stand Group Ice Breaker breaks the ice in a meeting, team building or training session in more ways than one. Not only do you get your group thinking and taking a stand on issues that participants will have the chance to defend, but you get your group physically moving. This physical movement warms up your participants more effectively than similar sedentary ice breakers.

As with most ice breakers, you’ll need to prepare in advance, but the variations of this group ice breaker are only narrowed by your imagination. It leads to endless variations based on your topic, the issues your group is considering, and the needs of your group for bonding and coalescing.

To lead the take a stand group ice breaker, the facilitator must bring issues to the meeting. The ice breaker is most effective if the issues about which you ask participants to take a stand are related to the topic of the meeting.

A related issue allows you to segue into relevant discussion and content at the appropriate time. The topic of the issue will help participants think about the topic of the training session or meeting while your participants become comfortable talking with the other participants.

The take a stand group ice breaker works well with groups who know each other and with strangers. A client experienced a similar group ice breaker about values at a professional association meeting. There were no right or wrong answers—just opinions and feelings about the issue.

With the take a stand group ice breaker, the most important step is selecting issues that are controversial without being divisively controversial. Topics that relate to politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, some gender and age issues, and national origin will rarely help you accomplish your purpose. They are divisive—in direct opposition to your goals for doing the ice breaker.

Remember, this is an ice breaker and the goal is to encourage comfortable conversation. You want participants opening up to each other, not closing down.

Sample topics follow these steps to facilitate the take a stand group ice breaker.

Take a Stand Group Ice Breaker Steps

1. Prior to the arrival of participants, as the group facilitator, you want to turn your conference room into a continuum. Do this by hanging a sign on each end of the room. One sign should say: Totally Agree - 100 percent. The sign on the other end of the room should say: Completely Disagree - 0 percent. At the midpoint in the room, hang a third sign that says: Neutral or Undecided - 50 percent. This provides your participants with guidance about where to stand when they take a stand in the group ice breaker.

2. When your participants arrive, ask them to take a seat as they normally would for your meeting or training session.

3. In this group ice breaker, participants remain in the large group. You may let them sit until you have presented the group ice breaker rules. The group facilitator presents these guidelines.

The facilitator will present the group with a series of issues, statements, or conundrums.

Group members are to react to the presented statement by signifying the degree of their agreement or disagreement with the statement by taking a stand physically somewhere along the continuum that the facilitator created.

Once all participants have physically moved to the location that best represents their point of view, the facilitator should suggest that participants share their rationale with the people standing near them.

4. The facilitator should then do an overall debrief of the exercise by drawing out the thoughts of various participants about why they took the stand they took. In a second question, the group facilitator should inquire about whether anyone or anything in the room influenced the stand that the participants took.

Sample Topics for the Take a Stand Group Ice Breaker

See how easy it is to customize this group ice breaker to the needs of the groups you facilitate and lead? Here are ideas for common group ice breaker topics.


  • My employer would think less of me if I asked to be demoted to a less responsible position.
  • If I am too good at my current job, I am less likely to receive a promotion or a lateral move.
  • People who ingratiate themselves with the supervisor receive extra privileges, favored treatment, and promotions.

Team Building

Workplace Behavior and Etiquette

  • Smokers waste too much time taking breaks to smoke.
  • Employees who frequently arrive late to work and miss workdays are uncommitted to their jobs.

Human Resources

  • Human Resources staff care more about enforcing the employer’s policies than they care about being employee advocates.

More About Using Ice Breakers