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<xTITLE>No soap, radio: confronting our fear of asking questions</xTITLE>

No soap, radio: confronting our fear of asking questions

by Diane J. Levin
January 2009

From Mediation Channel

Diane J. Levin

No soap, radioThose of you who grew up in the U.S. may be familiar with “no soap, radio“, a prankster’s joke.  When I was a kid, it was the kind of gag that older kids would pull on younger ones. The prankster and her accomplices — a group of sixth graders for example — would approach their mark — a younger sibling in the fourth and fifth grade perhaps — and offer to regale him with the funniest joke ever.

In the version popular in my hometown, the joke went something like this:  “Two elephants sitting in a tub were taking a bath together. One elephant says, ‘Hey, pal, pass the soap.’ The other elephant replies, ‘No soap, radio!’”

On cue, the prankster and her accomplices begin to laugh uproariously.  The younger kid surreptitiously glances at them, not sure why his older sibling and her friends are laughing.  Puzzled and uneasy, but not wanting to appear unworldly (meanwhile wondering anxiously whether ‘radio’ might be some kind of sexual slang), the younger kid begins to laugh, too, hesitantly, then with more conviction.  The prankster and her friends suddenly stop laughing, and maliciously one asks, “Hey, kid, what’s so funny?”  The younger kid stops, sensing too late the undercurrent of cruelty.  The air is charged with it, as a shameful silence hangs.  The older kids explode with laughter again, and in triumph the prankster shouts out the real punchline, “If it’s so funny, then explain it to me!”

Like a home-grown version of the experiments in social conformity conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, it’s a prank that exploits a strong fear and an equally fierce desire: our fear of looking stupid, and our desire to belong.  Unfortunately, when you don’t ask, the joke’s on you.

It takes courage to admit when we don’t know something, and courage as well to ask.  As the proverb says, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way” — or, for that matter, look like an idiot on the playground. It’s a grade school lesson that all of us should heed.

Biography


Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.

 

A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals.  She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.  She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.

 

web site: http://dianelevin.com



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