The Tells of Life

img173Have you ever wondered why or how some people just seem to have a knack for making and keeping friends? People seem to love them wherever they go. And it all seems so effortless.

I’m not one of those people…

Don’t get me wrong I can mingle, chit-chat, make small talk, find common ground with the best of them, but it takes a lot of work. A lot of effort. Effort that, if I’m being an honest introvert, I don’t want to take most of the time. But I think I’ve stumbled on a secret that will help me and can help you too if you’re like me.

I’ve been watching a lot of poker games lately – Texas Hold ‘Em specifically. Not in person, like so many other things, there’s an app for that. Also the Main Event of the World Series of Poker is on ESPN so even if you’re not a hardcore fan you and watch professional poker players and amateurs spend hours if not days playing poker.

If you’re not familiar with Texas Hold ‘Em it’s a version of poker where each player gets two cards, then each player either calls the bet, raises, or folds. The dealer then turns over three cards, better known as the flop. There is another round of betting then the dealer turns over one card or the turn. There is another round of betting and then the dealer turns over the last card or the river. Then comes the last round of betting. The winner has the best five cards made out of a combination of his cards and what’s on the table.

In theory at least. A lot of people bluff, which means they bet like they have a better hand than they do. Or they act like they have less of hand then they do to trap other players into putting more money into the pot. Sometimes this works and sometimes it backfires.

This is where a person’s ‘tells’ come into play. What is a tell? A tell is a behavior or mannerism that let’s the other people at the table know what someone is holding. A tell can be something as simple as scratching your nose when you’re holding a pair of aces or as complicated as scratching your head, then your nose, and then coughing. It can be a sigh. It can be excessive talking.

A tell can be anything and everyone has them. Even the professional poker players who have been playing for decades. And tells don’t stop when someone leaves the poker table.

Being able to accurately and objectively read body language is a skill which I think we should all learn. We should also be cognizant of our own body language because even the subtlest tells can have a big impact on the way others’ perceive us.

Everyone is aware of tells even if it’s only on a subconscious level. We know when someone is overly anxious, angry, sad and we respond even if we still only pick up on the mood on the subconscious level. I think the majority of our communication is done on a subconscious level which is scary to me.

What would happen if we took just a minute or two to really look at someone we’re conversing with or about to before we launch into some speech or tirade or story? Would we see the ‘tell’ or look that flits across their face that let’s us know they are happy, sad, mad, or in no mood to deal with us? Would it register that maybe we need to adjust our approach or just come back later so we get the outcome we were hoping for?

Sounds exhausting, right? Always looking for someone’s tells. It is at first, but soon it becomes second nature and it’s well worth the effort. We learn more about our own behavior, our tells, we are able to communicate more effectively and build better relationships.

So if you want a crash course in tells and how to read them I highly suggest you check out a poker tournament or game. It might just improve your ability to read the tells of life.


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