“Often a sign of expertise is noticing what doesn’t happen.”― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
When I first read this quote, it was amazing to me the truth of this statement. The ability to notice what’s missing can be instinctive, but in life, it takes learning by experience to become expert at what’s missing. Suppose a man wines and dines a woman and does all the right things to court her. It would seem that he says all the “I loves you’s” at the right time and calls when he says he will. Then he always has the perfect explanation for why he didn’t call or didn’t pick you up that time he was supposed. Other than those times, he’s thoughtful and considerate. No big deal right? He just seems perfect. Would you believe the woman in this relationship if she said, “But something is wrong.”
Having grown up with a manipulative parent, I understand the “something is wrong” sentiment. That “something” can be very subtle. You may notice other things that peek out from behind the cloud of seemingly pleasant, predictable words. You may begin to note how you feel about yourself around the person or note that you’re not listened to, or how your partner is not very interested in your point of view or what you have to say. You also may begin to notice how the conversations are just about surface stuff and not really about you and him. The person just likes having you around, like an old comfy pillow. Oh and by the way, after 3-4 years of dating, you hadn’t met his family and you’re beginning to remember the time when you both bumped into one of his friends on the street, and he didn’t even bother to introduce you.
Separately, some things you perceive may be insignificant, but put together, it can tell you a whole lot about what is going on. You get the strange feeling the person is stringing you along and playing games with you. Maybe it’s not purposeful. They just don’t know how to get out of the relationship. They are telling you one thing, but sending non verbal messages by what they don’t do.
It can be right in your face as well. The person that is sweetly listening to your criticisms and saying they plan to change but are not taking it seriously enough to actually work on themselves. Maybe they aren’t going to therapy or counseling, or they don’t want to make time to work on the relationship. These are omissions which should not be ignored.
It’s essential in life to take note of what is not happening.
- The retirement party where no one says they’ll miss you
- The engagement where no one says congratulations
- You move away, and none of your relatives asks for your address
- The girl’s night that you have to ask to come to but are never invited
- The person who says they’re your friend but never finds the time to keep up with you, and you notice you’re always the one calling them.
I’ve learned to become an expert in noticing these things because I realize folks can be expert at hiding their true feelings. Now noticing these things doesn’t mean these people are horrible, but maybe they didn’t like you the way you thought.
First, don’t get too out of sorts about recognizing people’s true feelings. Be glad that you see reality. Second, don’t get too hurt, because we’re all in life’s school of learning.
A person can promise you the world. An employer can say, “I love your ideas, let’s do it.” But you notice that the employer is doing nothing to help you to make that a reality. In fact, they are supporting people who are against your idea. Sounds crazy, but I’ve had that happen. At the same time, to you, they may say, “I love it! Go for it! It’s wonderful! Work hard!” But they don’t seem to want to take any responsibility for approving it. It really makes your head spin.
It’s unfortunate, but sometimes employers take advantage of hard workers. The employee works hard with a promise of reward and appreciation for trying to improve the company, but they notice after years of doing a good job, nothing is happening. They might work for years at a company, and their supervisor keeps telling them “Don’t worry it will pay off,” but the employee notices that her work is going unnoticed, not even a lousy employee of the week award. When it’s time to hand out raises, she gets none. After years of hard work, she notices that other people are getting promoted, “So what prize were they talking about?”, she wonders. Then, the employee begins to understand that no appreciation is coming. The prize was only the personal satisfaction of a job well done, or maybe she’ll be rewarded in the next life.
But that’s not what she signed up for. She wanted the raise. She wanted the extra vacation days and pay that came with the promotion. She wanted the recognition for the hard work that she could use for her family or herself.
It’s then you realize what is NOT happening. You’re being told to work hard and wait for the Canaan land that will never come. Is this really a place you want to work for? You’re encouraged to reach level 10, and then, you’ll get what the other people are getting. But when you get to 9. No wait, there’s a revision. It’s 11 you have to get to. It’s then you realize you’ve been bamboozled.
That’s a difficult moment, realizing you’ve been strung along simply because someone needs your talents on a job or just needs a sex partner. The folks that manipulate like this are not that concerned about the time and efforts you’ve invested. They aren’t concerned about you or your dreams and goals. This is the moment awareness takes shape. I write this because we only have so much time in life, and I hate to see people spending time and talents on things that are not helping them reach their goals. This takes becoming aware of the fact that people can play these types of games.
So how do you recover from wasted time?
Don’t waste any more time.
Once you become aware of the game, refuse to play. Pull back on always initiating contact or staying late while others go home. Find another set of friends that appreciate you as a person. Don’t be angry at them, just realize you weren’t that important to their circle. Whether it’s finding a better job or a better boyfriend, chart a new path for yourself. Find out your real talents and move forward. I can tell you from experience, it’s useless to whine about time wasted.
Remember any time you spend learning a life lesson is never truly wasted.
You are always learning something, and life is one long school of learning. God will use what you learned in significant ways. Your experiences will come out in your works, creativity, spiritual growth or in your next, better relationship. At the very least you will understand what NOT to do in your next chapter of life.