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When we have low self-esteem and/or we are not being ourselves and even going so far as to misrepresent ourselves, we actually have ‘tells’, unconscious actions that are perceived to ‘betray’ an attempted deception or what we’re trying to put across about ourselves. We can find ourselves saying, doing and agreeing to things because we think “I can handle it!” or “I want to give the impression that I’m ________” or we don’t want to give off any vibes that may scare them off or bugger up the ‘relationship deal’. We overestimate our capacity for a relationship, we overestimate our interest and yes, sometimes we overestimate our readiness to date and how over our ex we are and yes, sometimes we exaggerate. Let’s be real – some people just talk out of their bottoms.
Like Chris Rock said, when we first start dating someone, it’s not the real us that we’re sending out but our “representatives”. I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again; people unfold. Unless you’re dealing with a skilled con artist, most people including the personality disordered have “tells” that if you’ll heed the feedback, you’ll be able to get a more realistic picture of who and what you’re dealing with.
We communicate messages about ourselves not just in what we say and do but also in what’s left unsaid and undone. We also communicate messages about ourselves when our actions and words don’t match (the all-important inconsistencies) and we communicate even more when our actions and words take us away from our own values and essentially who we are.
I’ve had so many readers left perplexed by the question of why somebody felt that they could be or do something around them. The question of what was it about you that gave the impression that you’d tolerate something can keep you awake at night. “Why me?” or “Why him/her and not me?”
An ex colleague actually told me that he didn’t talk to me about career opportunities (that didn’t exist anyway and were a ruse to get ‘dates’) because I wasn’t “agreeable” enough. That was my ‘tell’ which prevented him from chatting all the BS to me that he had to so many other women in our office.
If you’re wondering why someone did something when you feel that at that point they wouldn’t have had the security of knowing how you’d respond, it’s highly likely to be because they were chancing their arm which means that they take the risk, not because they’ve assessed the situation and got a cue from you but more because they’re taking a chance and if they get the desired result, happy days and if they don’t, they’ll go to plan B. Or split. It’s like asking you for £100 when you hardly know them. Hopefully you say NO, but you might give it to them, or say “Yes, but I can only manage £50″. The risk has paid off but by giving them the money, however much it is, irregardless of how you think that you should be perceived, they may decide that you’re an easy mark for taking advantage. It’s the same when people reply those 419 scams or reply to claim their lottery win for the lottery that they never entered. Apparently some people have been scammed by these several times because the criminals figured their first responses made them good ‘marks’.
Your ‘tell’ can be determined by your response or lack of it.
If for instance you have an active assertive response around someone who is passive aggressive or aggressive, they might decide that you’re “too much effort”. If you have a passive response, that same passive aggressive or aggressive person works out that you’ll be more malleable and receptive.
Examples of ‘tells’:
- Giving them the time of day. Seems so unfair but some people are so aware of who they are and may have already given some subtle or even obvious clues, that they decide that they can be and do certain things with you because you’re interested in them.
- Believing their lies or promises even if you hardly know them or they’ve already given you reasons to distrust them.
- Going from being guarded and even aloof or cool, calm and confident to letting yourself be swept up in Fast Forwarding and even abandoning all of your boundaries or friends and family.
- Apologising and even sucking up to them even when you haven’t actually done something wrong.
- Showing eagerness to be with them or to work at the relationship even when there is code amber and red behaviour or it’s not a relationship.
- Letting them back into your life after radio silence and no explanation.
- Participating in a virtual / text ‘relationship’ for a lengthy period of time.
- Disclosing all of your insecurities to them which is a bit like giving them the blueprints to screw you over and even making them promise not to hurt you.
- Staying after disrespect, neglect etc., especially when no remorse is shown.
- Being willing to take the blame for ‘everything’.
- Treating them like your power supply and your life source.
- Being a people pleaser.
These actions all unconsciously communicate messages about you that betray any perception of you that you’ve tried to put across. These ‘tells’ communicate your vulnerabilities and / or areas of contradiction.
But don’t forget that it cuts both ways and that anything that falls into code amber and red behaviour is a “tell” particularly:
- Actions and words not matching.
- Fast Forwarding where intensity is used to speed you through the early stages of dating and blind you. It’s not flattering; it’s a danger warning.
- Abusive behaviour including even considering someone to be narcissistically inclined and ‘chopping’.
- Lack of empathy, lack of morals, not seeming to know or respectright from wrong and telling lies or even dripfeeding lies.
- An unwillingness to accept responsibility, lack of remorse, fake remorse and pressing the Reset Button,
- ‘Referring to all of their exes as psychos/stalkers, talking about their ex on the regular or being in touch with them to ‘negotiate’ getting back together.
- Addictions and anything that affects them being emotionally, spiritually and physically available for a relationship.
- Being willing to talk and meet as well as text, and more.
Anybody who is doing any of this stuff is not giving you their poker face; they’re showing you who they are.
Aside from making sure that you conduct yourself in an authentic manner by living by your own values, having boundaries, and essentially being you, plus handling anything that has been a “tell” in the past, it’s important to realise that particularly in the discovery phase of getting to know someone, you have to process all of the information and begin to recognise cues that indicate a conflict in values and trouble ahead. Only someone who suffers with Those Who Doth Protest Too Much is going to try to tell you who they are but everybody shows you who they are. The key is to take in all the feedback from the communicated messages (including unsaid and undone) instead of being ‘selective’ and only focusing on ‘good points’ or overvaluing something that in the grander scheme of things doesn’t mean much if your relationship cannot get off the ground.
It’s also important to remember that you can have a good “tell” in the form of your boundaries and also in being assertive by stepping up for you when you need to. These can only communicategood information about you. Having boundaries and being assertive aregood acts of self-care that will keep at bay or keep out those who don’t add good to your lifeanyway.
Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .
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