How to Use Favorite Quotes for an Easy-to-Plan Ice Breaker

Participants Can Join In and Not Fear Giving a Wrong Answer

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The easy-to-plan, meaningful quotes ice breaker has endless variations. It serves you and your audience well to break the ice with fellow participants and open up discussion on the topic of your training activity, meeting or team building session.

To lead the meaningful quotes ice breaker, the facilitator must bring a quote to the meeting. The ice breaker is most effective if the quote relates to the topic of the meeting.

A related quote will set the stage for later discussion. It will also get participants thinking about the topic of the session while you help them become comfortable talking with their fellow participants.

The meaningful quotes ice breaker works well with groups who know each other and with groups of strangers. This is because no right or wrong answers exist — just the participants' interpretations and opinions about the quote. This allows participants the complete freedom to express their point of view and not to experience concern that the other participants will find their ideas offensive or offputting.

Sample quotes are provided after these steps to follow to use the meaningful quotes ice breaker.

Meaningful Quotes Ice Breaker Steps

  1. Divide your participants into smaller groups of four or five people who are sitting near each other, or if participants are sitting four-five to a table as in many training venues, ask them to work with their tablemates. (In many settings, participants have just sat down, introduced themselves to the others at their table, and they don't take kindly to moving.)
  2. Tell the newly formed groups that their job is to think, as an individual, for a few minutes about the quote you give them and jot down notes related to these questions.
    • What does the quote mean to them?
    • How does the quote relate to the topic of the team building session, training class, or meeting?
  3. Then, ask the participants to share their answers with the members of their group. The facilitator should ask questions such as:
    • How similar or different were your answers?
    • Did anything meaningful occur for you during the discussion?
  4. After the participants complete their initial spontaneous discussion, ask the participants to share any thoughts or insights that highlighted their small group discussion with the larger group. Ask for a volunteer to start and lead a discussion for several minutes. Use the discussion as a segue into the opening of your session topic.

This meaningful quotes icebreaker takes 10 to 15 minutes with the initial unstructured discussion that the ice breaker generates. Total time will depend on the number of additional questions that you ask the group to discuss as part of the debrief of the ice breaker.

Applications of the Meaningful Quotes Ice Breaker

Here are sample quotes and the training classes, team building sessions, and meetings in which you can use them effectively to break the ice. Please note that many of these quotes fit multiple categories. Use your favorite quotes and your imagination to make this ice breaker work for you and your groups. Here are more sample quotes that you can use in this type of ice breaker.

Change or Change Management Session

  • "Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm." -Peter F. Drucker
  • "Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi


  • "Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." -Vince Lombardi
  • ”You have to know one big thing and stick with it. The leaders who had one very big idea and one very big commitment. This permitted them to create something. Those are the ones who leave a legacy.” -Irving Kristol

Empowerment and Delegation

  • "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." -General George Smith Patton, Jr.
  • "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." -Theodore Roosevelt
  • "The great leaders are like the best conductors - they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players." -Blaine Lee


  • ”The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.” -Charles Handy
  • ”Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” -Ralph Marstons

Goal Setting, Performance Development Planning, Clear Expectations

  • "A river has to have banks to be more than a pond." -Ken Blanchard
  • "Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future." -Peter Drucker


  • "Management is nothing more than motivating other people." -Lee Iacocca
  • "The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they're working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different." -Rick Pitino

Nonverbal Communication

  • "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • ”The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein

Team Work and Team Building

  • "You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don't seem to see that we must all lift together and pull together." -Henry Ford
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead