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11 Life Lessons of Playing the Telephone Game (Chinese Whispers)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

students playing chinese whispers

Many of the games we grow up playing have lessons secretly embedded in them. Okay, maybe the lessons aren’t really secrets, but they aren’t particularly obvious at first glance. One particular game that offers players some great life lessons is the Telephone Game, aka Chinese Whispers. 

The Telephone Game is not just an amusing way to pass the time. Playing it with kids and adults can be a great way to learn a few important lessons about life. Below are 11 life lessons that come through quite clearly in the game. 

11 things the Telephone Game can teach you about life:

1. What others say is not always correct.

The entire game of Telephone is created around this particular lesson. A line of people passes on a message one by one, by whispering the message into the ear of the next person in the line. 

By the time it comes out at the end of the line, the message is usually incorrect in some way. And this is precisely how it works in real life. Other people might not know that they are passing along the wrong message/information, but in many instances, they do.

2. Passing on stories can end up in the message being misconstrued along the way. 

One of the biggest life lessons you can learn from the Telephone game is that when you pass on a message (or information), it may be changed along the way. By the time it gets back to whoever you said it about, it could be a completely different message, and it may even have your name attached to it. 

3. Listening carefully and clearly to other people is of great value. 

It can be difficult to hear what someone is saying when they are whispering an unfamiliar phrase or message into your ear. The game teaches people to truly focus on listening carefully so that the message is not incorrectly heard. 

This can be extremely important in real life if you want to ensure that you always have the right information and that the other person truly feels heard. 

4. Before gossiping or repeating what you hear, check the facts.

When playing the Telephone game, you simply listen to the message and pass on what you think you have heard, without considering the implications. 

In real life, this is something to be wary of. Instead of blindly passing on information because you have heard it, you should take the time to check the facts; otherwise, you could send on incorrect info. 

5. Clear speech and pronunciation are key elements of good communication.

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Playing the Telephone game can help you with learning to talk clearly and pronounce words correctly. This is not just helpful in the game, but can be used in real life, especially if you often host meetings, do presentations, and make speeches where you want to be clearly heard and understood, without having to repeat yourself.

6. Patience is important to the end game.

In a game of Chinese Whispers, the players at the end of the line may become a bit frustrated with having to wait so long. They may even want to speed things up, which is unfair to the other players. 

In order for the game to play out correctly, each player has to be patient and wait for their turn. This is an important life lesson as it’s much the same in the real world. You cannot rush others just because you are getting frustrated with having to wait. Life is all about being fair and being patient.

7. It is important to wait your turn in life. 

In some Telephone games, especially in the younger age groups, players might try to push others out of the way to get the message along to the end in time. This is most often seen when a variant of the game is played where two lines of people must race to get the message to the end of the line. 

While this is a competitive game, it is important that no one is pushed out of the game or left out, and so it’s part of the rules that each player takes their turn and that no one can simply be excluded in order for a line of people to win! This is something that can be applied to life. Everyone has to take their turn. You can’t simply exclude others or push yourself into their turn just because you want to. 

8. Always be careful what you tell other people.

Are you the type of person who trusts what other people say? This probably isn’t a wise approach to life. In a game of Chinese Whispers, you have to take care to pass on the correct message clearly. 

The reality is that the message you pass on may be changed along the way. It’s not always a bad thing, but if someone understands the message incorrectly and passes the wrong one on, it could end up reflecting poorly on you, even if you never intended it to get around. 

9. It’s easy for people to pass on what you say.

Isn’t it funny how news/information has a way of traveling quite fast? In a game of Telephone, the message that is passed on travels quite quickly from one person to the next. In life, this is an important concept to think about. 

What you say to someone else can very easily be passed on to other people, even if you didn’t want it to be passed on. You simply cannot trust that other people are going to keep what you say private. Chances are that they are going to pass it along to at least one other person who, in turn, will pass it on – and so it goes. 

10. The only way to 100% trust what you hear is to hear it from the original source. 

One of the most evident lessons in the game of Telephone is that the message is never (or rarely) the same as what was said at the original source. It’s really good to keep this in mind during life situations too. If you hear something about someone else, don’t always trust that it is 100% true. You might find that things are a little different, if you go directly to the source. 

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11. Some people change the facts, just for the fun of it (or for devious reasons).

One very valuable lesson that comes out of playing the Telephone game is that you cannot trust people to tell you the truth. 

It is an undeniable fact that the more misconstrued the message is by the end of the game, the funnier it is. Because of this, some players in a game of Telephone will purposefully change the message or leave parts out, to ensure that the message changes along the way. This can happen in real life. 

When people tell a story or pass on gossip, depending on how they feel personally about the situation, they may slightly change the information to be more shocking, upsetting, interesting, or funny. Always be wary of what people say.

Last Word

You probably wouldn’t have thought that Chinese Whispers teaches these lessons, but if you give it a bit of thought, the lessons will become a lot clearer. The more you play the game, the more these messages are driven home.

The Telephone Game is designed to be fun, but it’s also jam-packed with lessons that can be applied to other areas in life. Children who learn this game early on get the opportunity to learn these lessons, ahead of actually having to deal with these situations. Who would have thought that a game of Telephone could offer such a great opportunity to prepare you for real-life situations?!

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.