The Telephone Game
In high school I took a psychology class with a teacher that looked like a miniature Mr. Kotter. It was one of the few classes that I enjoyed. He was always having us participate in fun experiments to reveal things about human nature. One of those was about trust. We had to fall back into other people’s arms hoping they would catch us. It started with us just standing on the floor. Then we stood on the desk and then from a chair on the desk. I never made it up that high. Not because I didn’t trust my classmates, but I didn’t trust the desk, the chair or my clumsiness.
One of the other games we played was Telephone. He lined several of his students up in a row and he would then whisper something in the first person’s ear. That person was to whisper it to the next and so it was to go on down the line. The last person was to repeat what he had just heard to the class to see if it matched with the original statement. It never did. Something was either altered or left out completely. It may have been close to the original statement, but it was never close enough to hold up in court. The lesson revealed how fast our memory fades and how sometimes we only recall certain facts.
When an argument happens between two people they say there are three sides - his, hers, and the truth. However, that’s not true. Oh, it is in the beginning, but not after the story has been shared with even just one other person. You know they are going to share it, because that’s what people do. They love to spread “news” about other people to prove they’re in the know and to keep people from talking about them. However, the story never gets told exactly right.
Even if people like the story - or hate it, depending on whose side you’re on - they have to change it, adding embellishments that create even more drama than a Hallmark Movie of the Week. The villain is cast in a darker light while the hero has a more saintly aura placed about them.
“You won’t believe how that bitch is treating him. I just don’t know how he’s holding up. I’d never be so patient and put up with all of that bullshit.”
And then that person shares it with a couple of more and they share it with even more. Yet, it’s never the exact story and soon a novel is being recited over coffee. Truth is replaced by the injustice of murdering facts and sharing fiction. The gossip is more important than the friendships or reputations that are being severed.
Telephone is a cruel game that can cause more damage than the truth when people’s lives are being discussed. I’d rather climb up on the chair on top of the desk than play the gossip game and you know by now how I feel about heights. I won’t share stories and I don’t want to hear them. When someone comes up to me and asks, “Hey, did you hear about So and So?”
My hand goes up. “Wait. Does this have anything to do with me or my family?”
“Then how about a game of cards?”
The best way to end the drama is not to participate. So when the telephone rings, don’t answer it. There are too many other great things to talk about, like the release of Reaping the Harvest.
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