Ashraf Ali

A challenge for 2019: Stop reading into texts/IMs/emails so much

One of my biggest challenges for 2019: Stop reading into texts/IMs/emails so much. Quiet the empath inside me so I don’t get so affected. Connect with people as directly as possible.

I used to love phone calls. I still love phone calls. But no one has the time, no one knows how to fill the silence with in depth conversation. Now it’s text this, WhatsApp that, Messenger this, email that.

We are losing the art of real talk. All online conversations defer the real conversations—in-person.

That’s reality though. You need to adapt to stay connected with people. So as a person who is so used to empathizing and connecting in person, online communication has presented its struggles over the years.

Learning not to read too much into messages (and lately, phone calls too) has been the hardest challenge.

My written words, even the ones you are reading here, will never accurately communicate my tone, my emotion, how I am feeling, why I am feeling, the context, or the body language I have as I write this. Nor will any text or IM.

The problem—the text/IM comes through in a very personal way, even though it’s an impersonal medium. My phone is with me all the time and it makes it so easy for someone to access me—and shove their words in front of me—with no warning, no room to assess the situation.

Just one notification on my phone from a loved one or a friend with a curt joke can flip my day upside down. I can feel so incensed, or so hurt, or feel so personally attacked. It’s one of the pains of being too empathetic with short messages and abbreviated letters.

I shouldn’t take a personal vested interest in the casual keyboard convos sent from a bathroom stall (don’t shy away, you know you do it too). Yet, I do.

I do read into my messages—way more than I’d like to. All these emotions flare up constantly, curling me up into a ball of stress.

For example: My co-worker wrote to me without adding “please” and “thank you.” I used punctuation so that means I’m being “passive aggressive” (to be honest, I just like grammar rules). The email was one word, so I’m not important enough for a decent reply. It all feels like it personally affecting me.

I need to stop this self-induced issue and reconnect to real talk. If I really want to know the truth, just call (and pray they’ll pick up). Or better yet, meet in person (though…I’ve got to go the extra mile).

To me, this effort is worth it. Because I think it’s important to just to try and understand how we both feel when we talk with each other. And the closer I get to that truth every day, the better I can connect with the people around me. That’s worth everything in this life.