For the past 10 days I was home, tending my parents’ kitchen garden and doing other chores. I was so consumed and the days would fly so fast that I skipped many conversations on Telegram, Slack, Email, etc.
What is interesting about that? People skip conversations all the time, don’t they?
Maybe people do, but not me. In the preceding months, I used to not skip any chat message. I would read all messages, click open and read links posted. And unless I had nothing to speak, I would even leave a comment in response. Even when I was having exams in my college.
But no, this is not about how I lost the obsession to read through all messages. I lost that obsession way earlier when I joined too many liberbot groups around 6 months back.
This is about my realization that a lot of conversations do not matter and are not worth putting time in.
What are the characteristics of messages that I wish I hadn’t received?
- Repetitive: This because I was saturated with messages about Free Basics. (I must be blamed for being part of too many groups that discusses the same). But after a certain point, messages became repetitive. Links and pages that ran through the same arguments again and again. I was neither learning anything new, nor helping the cause
- Vague complaints: These are complaints that fail to identify the problem or the root cause of it. Of course you can spend some time and discover the cause yourself. But most often, this effort is not worth it. An example would be “X is doing Y. How can they do that? They shouldn’t be doing that.”
- Isolated +1s, thank yous, lols, stickers: The best thing about these is that they can easily be skimmed over. But the worst thing about these is that they add little value to the conversation and even though tiny, they take up your attention as much as any other message. Unless there’s a supporting sentence, these reactions usually litter conversations and decrease information density.
- Useful messages for others that are not useful for me: Often, conversations are valid by all other means except that they are not useful to me in any way. Identifying these is very difficult too.
This is also about looking at conversations in a different way.
What are the characteristics of messages that I wish I received more of the same kind?
- Action oriented: Examples - “Should I work on X first or Y?”, “Do you want to help me with this cool project Z I am working on?”
- Mentally stimulating: Examples - “Have you ever thought of J like this?”, “Think of K this way…”, “What components of L do you think are helpful?”
- Focused on ideas rather than emotions: It makes me jump with joy when people don’t have to and don’t stop midway during a conversation to talk about getting offended or not.
On that latter note, this book called Dealing With Disrespect does an excellent job of helping you discern content from tone and engage more productively with critical comments.
Applying reciprocity laws, I figured out that I should send a message out only when I would have loved to see the same if someone else had sent it. Turns out there is very little for me to say these days.