A student introduced me to a simple group game last Saturday. We passed slips of paper around in a circle; one was marked with an L, and the rest with Ws. In this game, players don’t know what’s on their card. After the cards have gone once around the circle, everyone flips over their card. Whoever has the L loses the game.
It’s a fun game, simple to explain and play. But unfortunately L stands for Loser, and W stands for Winner. At the end of the game when they look at their cards and discover that they aren’t Loser, participants breathe a sigh of relief and immediately look to see who is. This poor person is labelled a Loser, and then made the centre of attention.
When 8 year olds played it, some kids appeared OK with drawing the L card, while others seemed upset. For many of us, that L simply reinforces a negative self-image.
I can be accused of bringing too much attention to this matter. Lighten up, Lucinda and all that. But it’s so easy to make this game non-negative—and even magically affirming—all in one quick, easy step: Label most of the pieces of paper with something like a happy face, and label one with W for Winner. This way, the person singled out by pure fate (this game has no strategic component) can feel good about themselves and maybe as if they’re having a lucky day.
Simple details can positively affect our communication, making life gentler and more enjoyable for ourselves and those around us.