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Communication lesson: The chair that did not exist

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A university professor called the class to order before beginning a rather unusual class in philosophy. After all the students have taken their seats and the normal introductory pleasantries of the day had been exchanged the professor stood up from his desk and moved his chair to an open area at the front of the classroom.

Walking to the whiteboard at the front of the room he wrote, “Prove this chair does not exist.”

Students immediately began writing lengthy philosophical explanations using in-depth thought processes. The professor
was pleased as he watched the faces of his students deliberate thoughtfully as they put their opinions to paper. As he glanced
around the room he saw determination and their facial expressions and he could tell this exercise was going to produce great papers.

However he could not help to notice one student was not writing at all.

The professor thought, “Could he have no opinion?” He could not help but wonder if he had failed the student.

At the next class professor handed out the graded papers. He paused when he got to the desk of the student for which he had not been able to observe any answer being written on the paper.

He smiled before quietly commenting, “this was the best response.”

Student sitting nearby and also noticed the lack of writing being done by this young mind.

“He barely wrote anything aside from his name on the paper,” thought one student.

With the students did not know was that the essay turned in at only two words on it, “What chair?”

This was not a flippant answer – it was very serious. Click here to see why this is the best answer.

Much of communication is visual. When a visual clue is given, such as the chair moved from behind the desk, a simple message can become complicated. Many communication experts tell you that words make up a small part of communication. While this is true one should not overlook the simplicity of the words themselves.

The assignment written on the board was, “Prove this chair does not exist.” The student writing down the two-word answer was the only student that had not jumped to the conclusion the professor was asking about the chair that had been moved to purposely be obvious to the class. While the rest of the students wrote about the obvious chair the two-word student knew that no chair was on the whiteboard, only words. Therefore there was no chair.

Another mind-twisting anecdote:
In a related exercise as the class the most simplistic answer to the difference between hard water and soft water. Let participants
debate for a few minutes before giving the answer. For the correct answer, click here.