A handful of words can make a difference

Feb 02, 2016 by Ronnie Apteker

Stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. This is what we were taught when we were kids. But, as we grow older, we learn that words are the most powerful thing in the world. Words can destroy and words can inspire. Words can also open a door, create a memory, and build a bridge. One single sentence can make your day, or it can get you rattled and miserable. So, what’s in a line? A lot!

We all know the expression “an opening line” and we all hear good one liners now and again. The cool ones we may even write down and remember. There are so many references to this word “line” – that string of words that can make or break.

Today, let’s take a detour into that all important one line. We all need to break the ice in the business world. Cold calling, inspiring those around us, capturing imaginations, making impressions, and simply connecting with people. Often a well-timed line can open a door and get the ball rolling.


Laughter is the ultimate icebreaker, and also, as the saying goes, the best medicine. Now, we are not all experts at making people laugh, but we can try and remember a few catchy words. Humour is a weapon, and a well told line, at the right time, can go a long way to warming people up.

I remember hearing this once, "I'm going to stand outside, so if anyone asks, I'm outstanding.” Now that is a cool line. It makes us smile and it is something we can easily remember.

I have used this line myself a few times. I have no idea who originally wrote or said it, but it certainly is a keeper it always warms people up.

Something simple and “cute” can go do wonders. Try making a note of smart, generic lines like this – they are all gems.

Wisdom tells us that money talks, but mine just says goodbye. This one always gets a cheerful and sometimes, sympathetic, look. Another keeper.

The movies we all love to quote, from classic scenes, are all about the power of a line. A quirky, and perhaps funny, provocative line, can make for a good conversation starter.

“Show me the money” comes to mind, as does “Go ahead, make my day.” What is really cool about these lines is that the vast majority of people know and enjoy these movies as well. You can utter these words and people will smile and relate. This is always good in connecting with people.

Yes, a bit of provocative wording may be just what the doctor ordered, but it also may backfire, so feel the moment. Not everyone can be Chris Rock.

Don’t cross the line

There is a fine line being brave and being stupid. Yes, a bit of provocative wording may be just what the doctor ordered, but it may also get you a dirty look. Think about what you are about to say. Get familiar with the setting. Know who you are talking to.

The thing about the one liner is that it may also be viewed as a pick-up line, if you are in a bar that is, and the setting is social.

We are trying to share the benefits of icebreaking in the business world, but yes, of course, our lives are multi-dimensional and a good one liner can be used far beyond the corporate domain. Just try not to step over the mark and be sleazy. Just saying.

On the line

I remember so many times being in a pressurized situation. You have that one chance to make an impression. You may have just a few minutes to “connect” and plant the seeds of friendship, or, you may leave them cold, and then the door will close.

I am in this situation often. The stakes are high – other people back at HQ are depending on me to get the show on the road. Making an opening impression could be the swing. So, sometimes, if the setting is right, and the mood is calm and relaxed, I jump in with a funny line. I enjoy sitting down with people in a work context, meeting them for the first time, at say 9 in the morning and going “How much time do we have this morning, because I need to be somewhere by 4.” I often get a strange look, generally followed by a smile and a giggle. This breaks the ice, and it shows that we are all real people.

A quirky line can do a lot of good in setting the mood, but never forget that personality opens doors and character keeps them open. There is a time and a place for some creative intervention, but always keep your promises. Actions speak louder than words. The words may open, but the actions will close.


The Internet is filled with reference material – just do a search for “one liners” or “classic movie lines” on Google, and you will have plenty of gems at your fingertips.

Borrowing a line online is there for you to take advantage of. We are not suggesting plagiarism, but, rather, sharing a common magical moment. It can be a quotation, for example, like these words from Picasso, who once remarked, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

Have a look at some of the quotes on the Coolfidence site – there are some classics here

And check these out – there is so much good movie material online:

Be interested

If you do get someone’s attention with a well-placed line then don’t forget the basics. Yes, it is better to be interested than interesting. The best sales people listen. Ask questions. Get involved.

Engage with people. Don’t just talk.

Summing up

Breaking the ice is a never ending activity. You don’t need an ice pick (unless you work at one of the poles) – words are our instruments here. A well-executed line can create intrigue and energy. It is amazing how a funny chirp, can breathe life into a quiet room. And If you are looking for some inspiration we always have the genius of George W. Bush – you can quote him forever. As he once famously said, “If things don’t change around here, they will remain the same.” True story. And the crowds went mad. Thank you George – you have helped me many times to get a vibe going.

Yes, break the ice, because a smile in real life is better than a like online.

Is this a ____ , or what ?!

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