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What's Your Poker Face?

What kind of poker face do you have? Are you the type with the cold blank stare? Or, are you the player who can’t keep a straight face? Do you fidget with excitement when you have a good hand and then slump into your chair when your hand stinks? Do you stare your opponent in the eye without flinching or do you avoid eye contact? Do you often try to bluff your way through a hand regardless of what cards your dealt? Regardless if you play the game of poker or not, you do play a game of poker with the people around you. Especially your partner.


A common exercise I conduct with clients involves asking couples to describe their partners poker face with one another.


It can be a revealing exercise in that each partner has a belief that they are highly capable of fooling their partner into believing what they are experiencing. Although, once the discussion begins both partners typically begin to realize there are signs, they were correct about and signs that they completely were oblivious to.


The objective of the exercise is to begin the process of cultivating a safe emotional environment to enable both partners with an understanding of what each other needs and allow one another to put down their “poker face” and be authentic with one another.


Many individuals make the mistake of trying to read the mind of their partner and tell one another how the other is feeling. Or, one or both partners react to a look, a tell, or a sigh of breath, and that triggers a downward spiral. BIG MISTAKE!


Learning to “read” our partner can be used in a healthy way, if, we let our partner share with us what their poker face means.


Take a few moments and reflect upon your own poker face in common situations.


For instance:

  • When you have something exciting to share.
  • When you’re about to burst because the dirty dishes were left near the sink, not in the sink.
  • When you’re in a hurry and someone is long winded while the response needed is Yes or No.
  • When you don’t get your way.
  • When you’re sad.
  • When you’re uncomfortable in an elevator.
  • When you approach someone walking on the street.
  • When your order arrives at the table and it’s wrong.
  • When your coffee order tastes bitter.  

While there are several non-verbal signs that are universal and can be obvious to many around us. As individuals, we also develop our own unique game face. In relationships, we can take that game face to a new level because the stakes are higher, and the perceived risks can be painful.


As you reflect on your own game face also ask yourself what do I need from my partner to enable me to put down my cards and show my hand?


Success rates of relationships are like the odds of a game of poker. If you want to win in your relationship, then put down your cards and show your authentic self.


“They” say the “house always wins.” Therefore, why don’t you and your partner ensure success by not playing the game of poker with one another.


This way your house always wins!