That Text Gave Me Feels

Our brains work like this: instinct first, emotion second, logic third.  If you sense danger, you’ll try to get to safety before all else.  If you are overwhelmed by emotion, it’s hard to act logically.  Only when you feel safe, secure and settled, can you engage in rational thought.

Technology is logic first and the modern world works opposite to our brains.  Ones and zeros have no emotion, much like this text message:

But if a message is just data, why can it trigger emotion?  Our brains need emotional context to interpret human to human communication, so it adds it in.

This makes text only communication tricky.  Our brain adds emotion based some arbitrary combination of how we feel about ourselves and the person who sent the message in that moment.  That emotion can be unnecessarily negative.  It can be misaligned with the intentions of the sender.  Something can wind us up that isn’t actually there.

If you can’t escape the fact that your brain needs that emotional layer as part of a communication, you can at least trick it into an emotion that’s more productive.  When I start getting emotionally charged by a text or email, I try to remember to API or Assume Positive Intentions.  I actively remind myself that the communication is most likely coming from a positive or neutral place.  The vast majority of people I have relationships with are normal, and have decent intentions.  This should be my default reaction.

Changing any habit is difficult, but just try to keep API in mind the next time you start going down an unproductive emotional path reading a text, email, dm, etc.  Believe that the sender has good intentions, and at the very least doesn’t have bad intentions.  If you know them and have some sort of relationship with them, then that’s probably the case.