Reading the Tell
In another lifetime, my neighbor, a Classics graduate student who admired ancient Greeks and Coco Chanel, said, “I live for the deal.” (I have no memory of what deal she could possibly have been talking about. Maybe she was in the process of selling her Fiero.)
She lived for the game, she said, for the feint, the bob and weave, the art of negotiation, the subtle obfuscation of meaning on the way to getting what she wanted.
I can’t say that I’ve ever lived for the deal. I prefer to ask for what I want, and know what you want, and hope we can work things out with all our cards on the table.
In poker, a tell is a signal that one player gives, either deliberately (to mislead her opponents) or unwittingly–a facial tic or some other involuntary response–as to the quality of her hand of cards.
The player who can read her opponent’s tell, especially a tell that reveals her hand, has an advantage in the game.
The friend who can hear in my voice that I’m not “fine,” who can tell by the length of my sentences or my response time that something is up, is the friend who can read my tell, and we are both usually better for it.
The reader of my manuscript who can say, “this doesn’t ring true for me” or “that section really nailed it” is invaluable to me writer.
I don’t want to give or withhold tells and make you guess. I want to tell you (even if it is with a slight slant) and hope you’ll understand.