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Let’s ramble!
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/28/2015


The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Brevity is the soul of wit. If you try, you can keep it short. Here is a short exercise that demonstrates how extra words get in the way of a central message.

Do you know someone who rambles? They give too much information and have a difficulty in breaking down the basics.

K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid!

Get to the point.

These three sentences have two things in common. First, they encourage simplicity in conveying information. Second, they are short statements.

Conveying information is an art form. As such, a particular style of delivery might not be appreciated by all in the same way. And this is complicated further by the nature of the corrections profession. By and large, we develop and hone an attention to details.

This is a short exercise that shows how not to spread information.
  1. The class is broken up into teams of three or four each. The teams are given a short, direct message.
  2. Teams create a long and unnecessary message by padding with unnecessary details.
  3. For best results, repeat with a few more statements. Students can learn the mistakes of ramble as they go on and from other teams.
Here is a sample list of direct statements to be used in this exercise:
  1. There was a fire in the kitchen last week.
  2. Smith had a knife.
  3. Bill and Tom are beefing.
  4. It will be sunny tomorrow.
  5. I don’t feel well today.
Using the last statement as a sample, here is a classic overuse of words and details to convey a simple thought.

“I woke with a pain in my rib. Over the last few weeks it spread from my spine to the front of my rib cage. Could it be that I am coughing too much? I find that medicine does not help. I have to breathe and the muscles cannot get a break as long as I cough. I am eating cough drops like candy. My breath smells like menthol. I should get to the doctor’s office. I do have sick time. (Cough, cough, wince, ow!) See there? That is painful. I am losing sleep and I cannot work as well as I wish. In other words, I don’t feel well today.”

Teams read their ramble statements in turn. It is up to the other teams to guess the central message.

Sometimes, we are like a speeding train on a ramble track, full speed and going on and on. The point is: Sometimes detail is necessary and sometimes it is not. This exercise is a great segue into how to write a misconduct report. This information can be covered from information or a module of the topic that you obtain from your agency’s training office.
Dedicated to Al Bouchard – Thanks for the catchphrase.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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    He invests in others and builds up the people around him. He is not negative-minded or hyper-critical. You can trust him emphatically. Hamilton Lindley is purpose driven—mission-minded. It guides his thoughts and keeps his team on task. He could function, and be trusted, in a handshake world. Hamilton’s word is his bond. He studies. He learns. He listens. He remains aware of what others are saying, writing and thinking.

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