How to Play the Telephone Game

Three Parts:Playing the Telephone GamePlaying The Telephone Game WellAdding Variations to the Telephone Game

The game of telephone is a classic ice breaker and party game. It's easy to set up and a lot of fun to play. You and your friends will try to pick a word or phrase, “pass it on” by whispering it to someone next to you, and have fun seeing how much it changed during the game. All you will need to play is a couple of friends, a word or phrase, and a quiet whisper.

Part 1
Playing the Telephone Game

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    Get everyone in place. Although the game of telephone is simple to play, you will need to arrange the players in a way that supports the game. Have everyone stand in either a line or a circle. Players should be spaced far enough apart that they won't overhear the word when it isn't their turn. Proper position is important when playing telephone.[1]
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    Start the game. Choose a person to start the game. This person will think of a word and whisper it to the person next to them. The word should be an uncommon one as the idea is to see how much it changes by the game's end. Once the word has been told to the next person, they will whisper it to the person next to them.[2]
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    Continue whispering the word. Players continue listening to the word and repeating what they think they heard to the person next to them. This is done until the last person in the line or circle is told the word. Every person should have heard the word or phrase by the end of the game. [3]
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    See how much the word changed. Once the last person hears the word or phrase, they will say what they think they heard out-loud. This is compared to the original word that the game started with. This is the moment when all the players get to learn just how much the word or phrase changed through their “telephone line”.[4]

Part 2
Playing The Telephone Game Well

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    Say a word or phrase only once. An important rule for the game of telephone, is that you can only say a word or phrase one time. Repeating the phrase will only help to clarify it, going against the point of the game. Only allow those playing one chance to whisper the word or phrase on their turn.[5]
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    Pick a unique word or phrase. The fun of telephone is to see how much a word changes throughout the game. Picking a simple or familiar word will make the game too easy, allowing the word to be heard clearly. Instead, it's a good idea to pick a difficult, long, or unique word to use when playing telephone.[6]
    • Choosing the word "dog" is probably a poor choice.
    • Picking something like "bayou" might be a better choice.
    • Using the word "misanthropic" could be a challenging choice.
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    Let only one person know the word. It's important that no one but the the person starting the round of telephone knows the word being used. If other players know the word, they will be able to repeat it with ease. Always keep the word a secret to ensure that it ends up being changed by the game's end.[7]
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    Always whisper. You will need to whisper a word or phrase to a person during the game of telephone. Whispering helps in two ways; keeping the word a secret and making it hard to interpret correctly. Keeping the word quiet can make it more likely that it will end up being misheard and wildly different from the starting phrase.

Part 3
Adding Variations to the Telephone Game

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    Play in teams. Playing telephone in teams can add a fun competitive edge to the game. Teams will each play the game in same manner, with one person starting the game off and the players whispering it down the line. However, one player is chosen to whisper the same word to both teams. The goal is to see which team can end the game with the word being closest to the original.[8]
    • Words that are closer will generally sound more alike or be a variation of the original word.
    • Words that are farther apart from the original will generally have wildly different sounds and meanings.
    • For example, you may start with the word "benevolence". One team ends the game thinking that the word was "beneficent", while the other team got "detriment". In this case, the team who said "beneficent" would be closer to the original word and win the round.
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    Try the “rumor” variation. The rumor variation of the telephone game includes one important difference in the rules. In this version, players are required to make changes. Even if you hear the phrase correctly, you must add one or two differences. This will result in huge changes to the original phrase the game started with. It can be a lot of fun to see just how different the phrase winds up being at the end of a rumor telephone game.[9]
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    Increase the difficulty. If you are finding that your team is able to keep the word or phrase close to the original, you can try making the game harder. Try picking new words or phrases that are more difficult to hear correctly. Keep some of these tips in mind when trying to make the game of telephone a bit more difficult:
    • Pick longer words or phrases. The more you say, the harder it will be to pass on to the next person. You might try using "Squirreled" or "Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?".[10]
    • Pick words that aren't often used. For example, "magnanimous" isn't said often and may cause players to mishear it.
    • Use random words that don't have context. For example using “tower, nose, zircon” would make it much more difficult to guess what was said without the context that normal phrases would have.

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Categories: Party Games