Poker players are notoriously good at sensing tells in their competitors.

A tell in poker is a change in a player’s body, behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player’s state of mind or assessment of their hand.

Poker players know that our bodies are broadcasting information ALL the time. Unfortunately, our society has trained most of us NOT to pay attention to that information.

I have a tell. When I’m in a flow state, I rub my hands together –slowly moving my right thumb over the palm of my left hand then switching to move my left thumb over my right.

This motion is soothing. It’s reaffirming. And when I do it, I’m typically energized, engaged and showing up as my best self.   However, I didn’t notice the tell until my husband — who was training in Hakomi somatic therapy at the time — pointed it out to me. Now, anytime I make this gesture, I’m aware. Something good is happening.

So why should you — a fundraiser or a non profit executive — care?

You should care because you have an incredibly important job! And connecting with all the ways you are showing up — in your body, emotional state and behaviors —  is paramount. Further, paying attention to how others are showing up  is critical as you engage staff or interact with donors and other stakeholders.

Want to try? Here’s an exercise you can begin with:

(1) Ask a close friend or colleague if they’d be willing to try out an experiment with you.

(2) Ask that person to tell you a short story about something they’ve been concerned about lately.

(3) In addition to paying attention to the story, pay attention to your friend as the storyteller. How is she showing up as she is telling the story?

  • Does her breath quicken at any point?
  • Does she get quiet in parts?
  • Do her shoulders slump?
  • Does her chin raise?
  • Does she raise her eyebrows?

(4) Make mental notes about what stands out most to you.

(5) After your friend is finished, debrief what you noticed most.

The more you practice noticing, the more aware you will be of the subtle yet important information that we all tend to miss — information that can make you stronger personally and professionally.