in Personal Development

How to Quickly Break the Ice with “The Two Things” Game

Scenario: You’re at a party or networking event and meet someone. You exchange formalities.

At some point in the conversation, you’ll probably ask, “So, what do you do?”

“Oh, I’m an author/banker/entrepreneur/drug dealer/[insert job title].”

Here’s where Two Things comes in.

The Two Things is a fun little game that was introduced by Glen Whitman. It serves as a great ice breaker and can lead to some very interesting conversations. It builds rapport quickly and also allows others to easily join in on the discussion.


The Story of the Two Things: 

A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So… what are the Two Things about economics?”

“Huh?” I cleverly replied.

“You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Ever since that evening, I’ve been playing the Two Things game. Whenever I meet someone who belongs to a different profession (i.e., a profession I haven’t played this game with), or who knows something about a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I pose the Two Things question.

So what are the two things about The Two Things game?

1.  People love to play the Two Things game, but they rarely agree about what the Two Things are.
2.  That goes double for anyone who works with computers.

I’ve tried this game a couple times with people and I can vouch for #1. It’s worked really well and is a fresh conversation boost to the regular small talk that usually accompanies meeting someone new. The “Two Things” are usually insightful and amusing, and can offer a new perspective even on topics you think you understand.

Here are some of the “Two Things” that people have come up with for their respective fields.

The Two Things about English Literature:
1. The text is really about writing.
2. Writing is really about sex.

The Two Things about Practicing Law in the Real World:
1.  Billable hours.
2.  Deep pockets.

The Two Things about Science:
1. Artifactual data proves nothing.
2. All data is artifactual.

The Two Things about Economics:
1.  Incentives matter.
2.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Give it a try and let me know how it works.


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