Breaking the Ice by Talking About Tattoos

“Girl, I can read you like a book . . . or, identify your dead body” is a comment that I posted on Facebook under a friend’s picture of her latest tattoo. I should mention that I am old enough to be her mother. And, I grew up in a time when most of the people who sported tattoos were either ex-military or gang members (or sideshow freaks). At the very least, tattoos were a sign of rebellion or deviancy.

Times have changed.

Even my best childhood friend (who shares my birthday), got a tattoo in her 40’s. It was a discrete, moonlit-ocean tattoo just above her ankle (see above picture). My shy, conservative friend decided to thumb her nose at aging by doing something a little “daring.” All I can remember thinking was:

Good thing it’s on her ankle!

Any higher and it might slide down there anyway when she’s an old woman!

While I admire the artistry of some tattoos, I personally don’t plan on getting one. I can’t get past their permanence. I might end up not with a beautiful tattoo, but with an ugly regret!

However, I no longer see them as a mark of rebellion. I’ve met too many great people with tattoos, people who haven’t gotten tattooed out of rebellion, but for reasons of fashion, individuality and even to memorialize a loved one. My 23-year old niece got a wrist tattoo with her father’s initials and the dates of his life, a life that was cut short by a murderer. She’s required to cover it up at work, so she wears a wrist band over it (she’s a waitress at an Applebee’s).

One of the best things about tattoos is that they can make great icebreakers! If someone has a highly visible tattoo, they usually expect to talk about it if you approach them with admiration or curiosity. I shouldn’t need to say this, but DON’T touch. Also, asking a stranger what a tattoo means (unless it is a picture of a dog), might make the person uncomfortable, if the meaning is highly personal. If they want to tell you the meaning, they will.

Some phrases to break the ice by taking about tattoos:

“Hey, nice ink! Can I check it out?”
“That’s a beautiful tattoo! Can I have a look at it?”

Do you have tattoos? What’s a good way for people to start a conversation with you about them?


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

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