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The Sandwich Shop

These are my thoughts. They are based on what I see going on around me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

I know very little about myself. If I did know myself better, I probably wouldn't be doing this.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Communication Breakdown ( It's always the same )

George Corneliussen

( Communication breakdown, It's always the same, I'm having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane! - Led Zeppelin )
One of my favorite games that we played when we were kids didn't even have a name. If it did have a name, I never knew what it was. To play this game we needed at least a dozen kids, but the more kids we had the more fun the game was to play.
The rules of the game were simple. The dozen or more kids playing the game would stand in a circle facing outward with their backs to the inside of the circle ( it was important that we not be able to make eye contact in order for the game to be played correctly ). Then someone would be designated as the "first" person in the circle. That person would then tell a short story to the person on their right. These stories had to describe something someone had done and contain no more than three or four sentences. Example: "Sally went to the store to buy ice cream. She met Harry on the way. Harry started talking to her about baseball. Sally forgot all about the ice cream."
After the first person in the circle told the story to the person on their right, that person had to tell the same story to the person on their right, and so on, and so on, until the story made it all the way around the circle back to the person who started it.
The fun part of the game came when the last person in the circle told the story back to the person who started it. The story was never even close to the version of the story that started the game. By the time the story of Sally's trip to buy ice cream made it's way around the circle it would sound something like, "Sally's mom yelled at her for eating all the ice cream. Harry felt sorry for her so he took her to a baseball game. Harry tripped on the way to the baseball game and broke his leg."
At this point, everyone in the circle would laugh wildly and compare notes to try to find out how the story got so messed up. Once that was figured out, the circle would reform and a new "first" person would start a new story on its journey around the circle. No matter how many times we played this game, the story never made it all the way around the circle intact.
I don't hear much about kids playing this game anymore, or about adults reminiscing about playing it when they were kids. I think I know why that is..........................
A game ( a way of playing; pastime; amusement;diversion ) is only entertaining when it is in opposition to the norm. A game is always the most entertaining when it takes our minds to a place it doesn't normally go. Now that telling a story inaccurately is the the norm in our society, why would anyone want to entertain themselves doing it ? That would be like someone who works in an office cubicle all day pretending they were sitting in one on their days off.
If you think about why the "circle game" works, it's not hard to figure out. Once the story is set into motion, there is no reference to the source available. Each person in the circle becomes "the whole ball of wax" when it comes to interpreting and communicating the story to next person. The first time a player in the circle isn't paying attention or misunderstands what has been told them, the mutation of the story begins. Then it's only a matter of time before the mutation gets mutated.
If the players in the circle were facing each other, the game wouldn't work. The person who started the story would be following the story around the circle and immediately correcting anyone who told the story incorrectly. The story would make it around the circle accurately every time, but there wouldn't be any fun in playing the game.
Isn't that what we've become as a society ? Aren't we all constantly setting stories into motion and never following up on the accuracy with which they are retold ? Isn't this why nothing in our society means the same thing to any two people? Haven't we all turned our backs on one another when it comes to communication ?
Let's look at the "big picture" for a moment. Are there any products, goods, or services you can think of where the story one end of the circle tells matches the story the other end of the circle tells ? When you deal with a person on a "professional" level , whether it is buying something, using something, or requesting a service, do you get the impression that the person you are dealing with face to face, over the phone, or through correspondence, has the same understanding of the product, good, or service as the owner the company that provides it does ?
Are you surprised when a product offers a "100% unconditional guarantee" and a representative of the company who sold you the product tells you the guarantee is void because you've "used the product"? Are you surprised when the local utility company bills you twice for the same month's usage and when you complain, the service representative thinks you are trying to sign up as a new customer ? Are you surprised when a local elected official publishes their headquarter's phone number, but when you call the number, you are told the elected official in question does not take personal phone calls?
I contend all the things that made the "circle game" so much fun are now a part of everyday life, so we can't entertain ourselves playing the game. We stand with our backs to each other, never make eye contact, never follow up on anything we start, and never correct mistakes along the way. To be fair though, there is one major difference in the way we play the "circle game" in real life.
In real life, when the mutated story makes it all the way around the circle, instead of everyone laughing and comparing notes to see where and how the story got so messed up, the person who started the story simply retells the mutated version of the story and sends it on its journey around the circle all over again. Deja Boo-Boo all over again.
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