When we had a number of guests (19 people in all) over to our home during Thanksgiving this year, I observed a very interesting phenomenon:
Our house is made of concrete walls and tile floors. The result is that sound carries quite well. Obviously, with all of the people there were multiple conversations that were going on simultaneously. This created an arms race of sorts. One group would start laughing about something and the other group would raise their voices to talk over the sound. When the first group stopped laughing, they now had to talk louder to be heard over the other group. This would continue to the point of almost everyone speaking at very high volume. This became most obvious when focus was shifted to making an announcement. One person would talk and this would created a full reset and everyone started off talking in normal voices to each other (everyone could hear and no one was losing their voice).
I found this whole situation very interesting. Every person is doing the most rational thing (speaking loud enough to be heard as opposed to telling the other people to shut up). However, this very rational act leads to the opposite of it’s goal — no one is able to hear. This kind of thing happens all of the time – consider a story I read where an infant was grabbing it’s own ear until it started hurting, this made the infant upset and so they started crying and grabbing harder, leading to a downward spiral. As adults, we dismiss this as silly, yet how often do we make decisions without fully understanding how our actions end up thwarting the very goal we are trying to accomplish. Food for thought….