Are You Paying Attention?


Have you ever had a child try and lie to you? They think they are doing it so well even though the truth is so obviously clear. You can’t even be mad because all you can do is see the total humor in it. We were no better at their age though. I often laugh when I remember trying to fool my parents as a kid. I thought I was so sneaky. However when I look back I think how ridiculous I must have looked. Like every kid, my first attempts at lying were probably just as painfully obvious to my parents. Now that I’m grown, I’ve started to realize that as adult our skill of deception aren’t much better. We are all walking around thinking we are the masters of disguise hiding our inner secrets and feelings when the reality is that anyone who is perceptive can usually see through our feeble smoke screens. There are very few people who are good liars. For example, a friend confides in you that he has a crush on Tom. He even prefaces the conversation with “You’d never be able to guess… but I’m in love with Tom.” As a good friend you acts supportive but in your head you’re thinking “No shit. Everyone knows you love Tom. It’s all we talk about when you leave the room.” But of course you can’t say that. Instead you might acknowledge that you had a tiny suspicion but you still add on a heavy dollop of fake surprise. That love struck friend probably thought he was fooling everyone by keeping his secret well hidden when in reality many had already picked up on it. If you’re close enough with said friend to tell them that you’ve always known, it’s also quit hilarious to watch them slowly realize how non-secret their secret was
Maybe perceptive isn’t the correct word. Rather than say I’m perceptive, I’d say I pay attention. People will always show you who they really are as long as you pay attention to the details. I remember listening to Amy Sedaris (in her book Entertaining Under the Influence) talk about the word meds vs medication. If a guy says “I’m off my meds” it’s very different than saying “I forgot to take my medication today.” While both phrases indicate a missed prescription, the former definitely tends toward as Sedaris puts it ‘mood altering psychotropic drugs.’ Specific words and actions like that are your little clues. Nonverbal communication is just as important. Going back to the earlier ‘crush’ scenario, your friend’s true feelings were probably obvious because he lights up whenever Tom enters the room. I know it’s a cliché idea but a person’s whole demeanor can change when they see someone they have feeling for.
As I said people will always show you who they really are as long as you pay attention to the details. What I’ve come to realize though is that being perceptive (or whatever you call it) isn’t as common as I thought. In fact for a long time I assumed it was as common a trait as language itself. But as I get older I’m finding that not every shares this skill. Here is a good way to tell how well you pay attention: 
How often does a friend do something that genuinely surprises you? 
I’m not talking about surprise parties or jokes, I mean a friend doing something that is the total opposite of what you’d expect. A choice that you would never have guessed. The more you are surprised by people the less you probably pay attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. I was surprised recently when I learned more about a friend’s past. To be honest, he was more of a friend of a friend who I had never had a one on one conversation with. Lacking any real background knowledge I guess I just assumed my version of an average storyline. I was stunned when someone casually mentioned the true details of his past. I never would have guessed it in a million years.
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