I first came up with this comic a while ago, but I didn't post it because I'm not sure if it's actually funny (I know, why didn't that stop me with some of the others?). Whether it's funny or not though, it is an illustration (even in a non metaphorical sense!) of the next interesting idea that comes up in Games People Play. It kind of relates to my penguins with pebbles idea, actually, if you've ever heard me explain that one. But basically, the premise is that people rely on various pastimes for social interaction. Pastimes are kind of like games, except the author reserves the word game for more complex interactions...so think of it as like playing catch. And the thing about pastimes is that different people have different pastimes they prefer, and not knowing or not following the rules of a particular pastime can lead to being ostracized from a group where that pastime is favored. This makes fundamental sense to me. I'm often the one who screws up the rules, but I can also remember times I've been annoyed with someone who wasn't participating in the conversation "correctly." The example that the book gives is you don't join in with a group of women complaining about their husbands by telling everyone how great yours is. You know, unless you want to be glared at.
People gravitate to the kind of comfortable, predictable conversations that they know how to participate in (complaining about their boss, talking about baseball scores, quoting lines from shows they've all watched), and while it's inane on the surface, it does serve a social purpose. And I guess there is some usefulness to becoming consciously aware of the rules of the pastime conversations around you....if you're frustrated with your inability to naturally follow them, or chronically dissatisfied with the conversations you end up in and trying to figure out why. And "not playing by the same rules" is probably a less judgmental way of looking at it than deciding someone is boring, or rude.
So, um, score one for the book with coming up with a useful paradigm for understanding social interaction! It's not as good as my pebble analogy though. If you're really lucky, I may tell you about that one sometime.