Observations and results
Did the statement you whispered change a lot during its journey? Very often the differences from the original are so great that people laugh. In real life, of course, miscommunication can be more frustrating than funny. This frustration might come from the belief that communication is straightforward, even though, as we have learned in this activity it is not.
The world is full of distractions, both external and internal. No one can control all of them at any given moment. Moreover, everybody’s brain is different—in how it works and in the information and experiences it has collected. Thus, what you think you are saying may mean something quite different to someone else—particularly if you start in the middle of a thought, choose a wrong word or speak too quickly. Speakers make one or more of these mistakes quite often—and worse, rarely realize when they do.
Once you realize the obstacles to communication, you will be far more understanding when it fails—as well as able to communicate more effectively by averting common errors. Think about what is going on at the moment: Does the other person appear to be distracted? If you need to repeat yourself, don't be annoyed. Repetition, as you may have learned from the above activity, is a good strategy for making sure you are understood. Another tactic is simplicity. See if a bare-bones message will suffice, at least for now, but don't leave out background or critical details!
More to explore
Active Listening: The Telephone Game (pdf) from Peer Education
He Said, She Said from Scientific American MIND
Where Are the Talking Robots? from Scientific American MIND
How to Play Telephone from eHow
Your Memory Is Like the Telephone Game from Northwestern University
Stress Relief Can Be the Key to Success in School from Scientific American MIND
Schools Add Workouts for Attention, Grit and Emotional Control from Scientific American MIND
Hands in the Air: How Gesturing Helps Us to Think from Scientific American MIND