Distorted Thinking 101: Does Lack of an Exclamation Point Means He Hates Me?

by on April 24, 2013

creepy facesThis post is one in a series of articles discussing distorted thinking and how it creates stress, anxiety and panic in your life 

Unless we thrive on being abused, most of us dig positive interactions with other people. We may especially enjoy when they offer positive reinforcement in the form of a hug, a compliment or a literal pat on the back.

Getting positive signals from others makes us feel warm, cozy and happy inside. It also doubles as outside validation that whatever we’re doing or saying is good. Some of us have come to rely on it so exclusively, however, that when we don’t get it at every turn, we think something must be really wrong.

And that something is probably something really wrong with us.

How It Goes Down

Here’s how it usually works: 

Let’s say we hand in an assignment at work and the boss emails us a thank you. The email says:

“Thank you.”

While the message is pretty straightforward and technically contains a positive phrase, our minds can still go trotting off into the distance thinking something is wrong.

My boss must not have liked my assignment since he didn’t use an exclamation point. The last time he sent an email after a task it read:

“Thank you!”

Not only is he mad, you think, but I am probably on the verge of being fired. He usually includes those little emoticon smiley faces in the emails when he sends them out.

Now our minds move from a trot into a full-fledged gallop of negativity.

What did I do wrong? Why am I so stupid? How am I ever going to find another job? No one is going to want to hire me because I somehow screwed up that last assignment.

You went from feeling good about completing a task to being a complete idiot who is already jobless, homeless and living out of garbage cans on the street.

All because of an email that lacked an exclamation point.

More Common than You Think

While this pattern of thinking may be unhealthy and even downright depressing, it is also not uncommon. In fact, it made Psychology Today blogger Alice Boyes’s list of “50 Common Cognitive Distortions.”

This particular distortion ranks in at No. 8:

“Thinking an absence of effusiveness means something is wrong.” 

You can use this distortion at work, at play, at home or even on the bus.

  • Perhaps you believe the bus driver hates you if he greets you with a nod, and not a nod and a smile.
  • Maybe you think your best friend is about to become your greatest enemy because she only gave you one hug instead of three the last time you hung out for coffee.
  • You may even be convinced your spouse is aiming for divorce unless he or she greets you at the door each night with a banner, a band and a bouquet of balloons.

As you may have already noted, this type of distortion also likes to come with a host of negative predictions in tow. Negative predictions are yet another common distortion that we can easily throw into to just about any mix.

And it all comes from a major faux pas that we’ve all heard makes the proverbial ass out of you and me. You’re basing these distortions on assumptions, and the assumptions are both false and negative, to boot.

Breaking out of this particular distortion is possible, and you can start by throwing assumptions out the window. Why not just ask someone if something is wrong instead of assuming it? And why not take compliments as they come and appreciate them as they do without thinking the lack of one means you’re lower than an earthworm on the food chain.

Try shutting off the assumption switch. You just might like it. And it doesn’t even need an exclamation point to work!

SOURCES:

Photo Credit: Merrick Brown via Compfight cc

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