Bells, Buzzers, and Playing the Feud

On Family Feud, there’s a famous dramatic pause between when a contestant makes their guess and the host turns to the board and announces, “survey says…”The answer gets displayed along with the winner’s bell sound or the soul-defeating buzzer and the infamous red X. That pause is everything. It’s the moment of anticipation while we wait to hear if the guess matches what the survey actually said.

Family Feud is just a gameshow, but there’s something very familiar about the drama of answering questions on the path towards winning or losing.

In daily life, sometimes we’re the host – ready for the opportunity to unveil the answer, and other times we’re the contestant – feeling the relief and pride of being right, or the visceral sting of getting red X’d. Sometimes we know we’re about to be measured against the survey (or know we’re about to measure someone else), and sometimes we (they) get blindsided by it.

While life is never short on the drama that drives the show, it is full of a much richer range of bells and buzzers. If we’re the host, we can choose between a gentle ding of acknowledgment and the full-on celebratory ring with accompanying high fives. We can also make a wrong answer subtlety comforting or blast a person with the red X and buzzer.

Like in the game, we usually can’t change the facts of what the survey says, but in the real world we can be deeply aware of the impact of what comes after “survey says.” That goes both for when we’re the host and when we’re the contestant.

We should know the show we’d like to run as well as the show we want to be on.

Pay careful attention to the bells and the buzzers, they’ll tell you a lot.