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?

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