Adventures in Conversation!
A game the whole family can play!! And just in time for Christmas!
My perspective on the communication patterns of my family of origin, from this side of the Cascades, has evolved in the last eighteen months. It comes with the luxury of 1700 miles of physical separation. My family interactions form a teslating pattern – a type of conversational menu and flowchart. Most items are accessible via phone, with some limited accessibility in person. It’s definitely not a version of “Choose Your Own Adventure”; it’s more like “Mouse Trap”, where the gambit opens with the match already in play. Survival depends on quickly and correctly identifying where you are in the maze and what options are still yours.
1. The Hand-off. “Here, I’ll let you talk to your ______ (sister, brother, parent, in-law – who ever is handy).” Designed to end the conversation without having to be the one to say goodbye. Delegates the job to the closest body. Serves to lengthen the conversation, not end it. Frequently leads to #5 below.
2. The “You’re late.” A greeting designed to make sure you are put in your proper place before the conversation opens, you and your time being less valuable. This conversation is frequently short. Variant of #7, can also function as a warning that a #3 is about to begin.
3. The Inquisition. “I have a bone to pick with you”. Serves as notice that you’re about to get your ass chewed for something. Stands alone or can be paired with a #7 and may be initiated by either party.
4. The Three Questions. “How are you? How are Rick and the kids? How is your business?”. Designed to get YOU talking so they don’t have to. Makes them appear interested with the bonus that they know your business, not the reverse. Lighter variant on #5.
5. The Assault. “How is the weather? Are you ready for Christmas? When is Rae’s wedding? How does Rick like his new job? Do you have any clients? When will you come back to Minnesota? Have you. . . ” This is a deflective conversation delivered shotgun style. Buries you so deeply in responding to the questions, you have no chance of asking them anything. Sheer volume of questions insures nothing of great meaning can be exchanged. Functions well if you don’t really care what your sibling is doing and you wish to get credit for talking to your sibling, and thus, relieving someone else of the burden of saying goodbye. Time consuming. Easily replicated. Requires a #1 to perpetuate or a #8 to conclude.
6. The Cleopatra. “Everything’s fine.” This is a tricky one – sometimes it means “Ask me what’s going on”; sometimes it means “I’m busy, keep it short.” Either way, your response is likely to be considered offensive: see #7. Caution: Not to be used with in-laws. See #1 or #8.
7. The “I’m Offended”. Frequently paired with the Inquisition or The Cleopatra. Usually comes out of nowhere. Most easily recognized in the tone of voice. This is a typical response to a faux pas that most likely happened before the current conversation. Mistakes are not allowed. Assumes that whatever it was you did was done on purpose to offend. You are most likely going to have start your own Inquisition to identify the offense, or resort to the Cleopatra to escape. You could also hand the phone to the nearest warm body if available, see #1. If no one is available, see #8.
8. The Excuse – also known as The Little White Lie. “Oh Goodness! There’s somebody at the door! I have to go!” Allows one to save face by having a socially acceptable excuse to say goodbye. Little used except with in-laws or when speaking to someone you need to say good-bye to after the proper amount of time for a conversation has elapsed. Also is the proper way to get off the phone when you have to pee. And the only way to conclude if you are alone.
Warning: It’s helpful not to play alone – there is safety in numbers. When in doubt, you can hand the phone to the nearest warm body (see #1) which will eliminate having to use a #8 which risks initiating a #7 or a #3.