More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

None of Your Business

by Matthew Arnold Stern

To start my second CTM, I wanted to try a different approach to giving an icebreaker speech. You can learn as much about a person by what he or she does not say as what they do say. This is the approach I used with this icebreaker.

In the icebreaker, Toastmasters are supposed to tell their club about themselves. But the problem with today’s world isn’t that we don’t know enough about each other, but that we know way too much.

Not long ago, I watched a show that suggests that Princess Diana may have been killed by the Royal Family. (And I thought I had problems with my in-laws.) At one point, the show speculated that the Princess may have gotten pregnant by her paramour, Dodi Fayed. But one of the Princess’ friends said that she couldn’t have been pregnant because she was having her period a few weeks before her death.

We didn’t need to know that. Yes, we know the Princess was a woman. Yes, we know that she was of child-bearing age. We didn’t need the details spelled out for us.

I have some aspirations of fame by becoming a best-selling novelist. But even if I enter the spotlight, there are certain things about me that are nobody’s business.

  1. Sex. My sex life is none of anyone’s business. Of course, being the parents of young children, we don’t have a whole lot to talk about anyway. All anyone needs to know is that my wife and I produced two wonderful children, a ten-year-old daughter and an almost six-year-old son. Do the math. Don’t spend any time trying to visualize it, though.
  2. Money. Why do people get so obsessed about what people earn? “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen made $23 million last year by being cute.” A number of you have met my manager, who has visited this club on occasion. Not only does she know much I make, but she has the power to determine how much I will make in the future. But she is bound by company policy not to disclose this information. She’s not telling; I’m not telling.
  3. Politics. It seems that celebrities feel that just because they’re famous, they have the right to flap their jaws about issues they know nothing about! Some of them have gone on to get elected to public office. I do have political beliefs, and they are well documented at the FBI. I just don’t believe in acting like an insufferable jerk about them.

There are plenty of things that I will share with others about me. You can see them on my Web site, matthewarnoldstern.com. But in this time when people feel that they have to spew out their guts (sometimes even literally), I feel that some things are better kept to oneself.