The Telephone Game

Remember The Telephone Game?  You probably played it when you were a kid…  Stand in a line, and the first person whispers a phrase to the next.  The words are repeated down the line, until the last person then says the phrase out loud.  

Everyone is amazed when the first guy says “What I said was….”.

Hilarity ensues.  Laughing at how twisted words become as they travel from mouth, through brain, to ears…

It also applies in the realm of parental communication.  When The Boy was about four years old, he was enthusiastically jabbing The Girl with a fork at the dinner table.  i said “Stop jabbing your sister with the fork, or i will put you in time out.”

The Boy nodded, and immediately turned to his sister and resumed jabbing.  She howled with indignation, making damn sure i noticed.

daisyfae [grabbing The Boy’s arm to cease the carnage]:  What did i say?

The Boy [tearfully]:  You’re going to put me in time out.

We tried again.  i said “Stop jabbing your sister with the fork, or i will put you in time out.”  But this time?  i asked him to echo my words back to me.

daisyfae:  What did i say?

The Boy [pouting]: You’re going to put me in time out.

Eventually we got there, no blood was spilled in the broccoli that night, and i learned an effective communication mechanism for important messages: Ask them to repeat it back to me.  

Turns out, this is also a useful communication method with whiney-assed men with PhD’s in theoretical physics.

daisyfae: i made the decision to install the new x-ray spectrometer in the lab in the other building.  You will still be able to get your work in the queue, but as part of the long-term plan, it better serves the entire branch.  Do you understand?

Whiney-assed PhD:  You’re taking away my equipment and I can’t get my stuff x-rayed. [storms off to write pointed e-mail]

The implications outside the workplace, however, are far less entertaining…

What was said: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship.”

What was meant: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship.”

What was heard: “I am not interested in an exclusive relationship because I haven’t met the right person yet…”

What was said in response to this statement:  “I understand.  I don’t want an exclusive relationship either.”

What was meant: “That’s because you haven’t gotten to know me yet!  Let me in, and I can change your mind!”

What was heard: “I understand.  I don’t want an exclusive relationship either.”

Is it condescending to ask a companion “What did i just say?” when delivering an important message?  Or is it better to run, not walk, to the nearest exit at the first signs of crazy?

47 thoughts on “The Telephone Game

    • it’s easier to run away from crazy when you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have done everything possible to communicate your own interests… and yes, in this case, escape was necessary.

  1. In Oz we call that game “Chinese Whispers”! It’s not easy explaining the notion of non-exclusivity to an exclusivity-condition person. You could suggest some bedtime reading, a book called “The Ethical Slut”.

    • i am learning this – i don’t mind that others have differing points of view. it’s the god damned judgmental types who feel compelled to malign my choices that really have gotten on my nerves lately…

  2. Ah yes, Chinese whispers! I have this same problem although sometimes in my own head! I once asked the ticketing lady for a “one way ticket to Pittsburgh” but ended up saying “one way picket to titsburgh”. Tragic.

    • Welcome to The Park, Dash! Sorry for your tragic mistake – i once heard of a man who meant to ask his wife “Honey, please pass the Cheerios”, but instead said “You’ve ruined my life, you evil witch!”

      i hate it when that happens…

  3. Crazy won’t fix itself. Don’t just run; make sure you get any crap you might have at his place out of there (hey, it happens when/if we sleepover), and hang the relationship publicly from a noose for him to see (crazy doesn’t always get the hint). Better yet, start dating someone else…that’s a definite relationship breaker. Good luck!

    • “crazy won’t fix itself” amen… i like your concept of public hanging, as crazy (in this case) still hasn’t gotten the hint… and since it was the dating of others that really triggered this meltdown? dating others is already underway…

  4. Is that why everyone is always running away from me?

    And i do the same thing with the I-Mac, his ability to tune out his daddy is already well-honed at 5 so when i really need to drive home the point i make him repeat it back to me, sometimes it even works.

    • i like your kind of crazy. it’s the self-delusional kind that can go fuck itself. as for I-Mac? get him a spork. it only goes through the first 3 layers of skin…

  5. Having to explain that you don’t want an exclusive relationship… nice to know that you can still attract the offers perhaps though?

    • if someone is looking for exclusive with me? i politely say “i am not the droid you’re looking for…”. but when there is a hidden agenda, kept close, that is delivered after months of “I don’t want one, either”? that’s just not healthy…

      stalkers are not really the kind of ego-food that’s good for you…

  6. Have you played the one where you say “C’est fini”, and the recipient hears “I now want you to be especially loving”, so you respond “Nice try, but It’s over” and the recipient hears, strangely, “Invite me on holiday”, so you repeat “No, no, NO: this is finished, kaput, dead”, and the recipient hears “Please elaborate at length on every aspect of my character and person that you consider deficient”?

  7. I doubt the veracity of your post simply because it implies your children ate broccoli at a tender age!
    An amusing aside concerning communication (and the lack thereof)- one time at the office I had gotten into the raised ceiling to run some network cable and left the panel askew. The senior branch physics PhD, who happened to have an office at the end of the hall, noticed it and went straight to the branch chief and complained that I was stealing his air conditioning. I cannot tell you how many PhDs I know that are brilliant in their field and completely for shit when it comes to common sense and social interaction. I swear, when some schools give you a PhD they must excise those skills – if they ever existed. What’s bizarre is that there are plenty of PhDs that are totally normal, rendering the rule of thumb useless in this case. You have to see them in their natural habitat to judge for certain. Coming out of the bathroom mumbling or with their zippers down are good indications…

    • they were force-fed. anal feeding tubes threatened if they didn’t comply. child welfare laws were far more relaxed in those days…

      you know my pain with the theoretical physics dorks. they can model the behavior of quarks, but are incabable of recognizing that it is possible to eat food without sharing the view with others…

      and i think i know which whack-job thought you were swiping the air conditioning. which is really funny…

  8. “Do you not understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

    And they (men) say that we only hear what we want to hear! HAHAHAHAHA
    In this case, a public display of I’M DONE (aka FUCK OFF) may be needed. 🙂

    • male or female, we are all capable of hearing only what we want to hear…. it’s when the delusions become compelling. when the delusions spill over into the realm of “I’m miserable because of people like you”? that’s when i get a teeny tiny bit stabby…

  9. I think I divorced that man!
    I said, “I don’t want children, ever.”
    He heard, “I don’t want children, but I’m sure to change my mind since such a silly notion couldn’t be seriously considered for long. I’ll just wait her out.”

    • Hi Jen! Good to see you again! And yes… we are all suseptible to the notion that “Oh, i’m going to be SO AMAZING that i’m going to change you!”. That’s biology. That’s ego. But damn… something like birthing children? That’s a big one… Congrats on holding your own and getting out.

    • i’ve known 4 year olds who could dress themselves better than some of my colleagues… that characterization probably did a disservice to 4 year olds…

    • as i’ve gotten old, i’ve noticed i will spend far less time on trying to get honest communication from folks who probably aren’t worth the effort… but i can’t quite give it up. there are good humans out there.

  10. My marriage started out that way… you know, my husband insisted for the first year that he did not want to be exclusive. But his behavior seemed to say something different, so I hung on. We’ve been married 20 years. I can completely see how people hang on in spite of words. It’s not always crazy.
    People say one thing and do another all the time.
    I guess I’m asking if there is more to the story? Why is this so crazy?

    • Welcome to The Park! Congrats on making your marriage work out – not an easy thing to do…

      “People say one thing and do another all the time.”

      True. But in my book, that’s the very definition of hypocrisy. i’m not a mind reader, and i prefer honesty – and consistency – with word and deed.

      More to the story? Of course. But i’m not one to air the poo-poo undies at the public laundry. That would be rude…

  11. Hah, women! Always gotta be right. I just had a massive argument with the wife and she’s left me because I’m a ‘pedantic prick’

    Well if she’d just got me the black woolly socks like I wanted instead of the woolly black ones…

    • what? she only threw you out for that? i’d have whacked you upside the head with a sturdy plank and then sent you along…. probably with the woolly black socks neatly wedged in your backside!

  12. I work with a bunch of freaks that read every fourth word of an email and then reply accordingly.
    Dear Fussybritches, Would you like ham or roast beef? I’m calling in an order for take out”
    Fussybritches Reply, “yes, I’ll be in my office until 2”
    What I meant to say is, How the fuck do you stay employed?
    What we have is a failure to communicate.

    • HA! i’ve got a couple of those at work. i can ask them virtually any question, and it’s like pushing a button on a “random answer generator”.

      daisyfae: Where is the meeting this afternoon?
      confused: Bassett Hounds Got Floppy Ears

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