The Harm of Overthinking; Misunderstandings Can Lead to Chaos

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“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will” -Martin Luther King, Jr. Usually, we try to avoid misunderstanding others or being misunderstood. However, misunderstanding happens between all people without them noticing. Without talking and expressing how we feel verbally, we can create arguments amongst each other, and having negatively biased thoughts leads us to overthink hence losing the relationship.

Nowadays, we regularly text one another instead of talking to each other. While we receive texts, our minds automatically create a new meaning of what was meant by this. When we usually text, we do other activities like watching TV, reading a book, or scrolling through social media. This means that we aren’t focused on the conversation that we’re in. Texting, or nonverbal communication, leads to misunderstanding one another. “Known to psychologists as a form of avoidance, texting about major conflicts is simply a way to talk about the situation as if it’s not happening to you. On that same note, if you’re discussing a problem with yourself as if it doesn’t apply to you, then the solution you reach doesn’t apply to you either; nothing gets accomplished by text.” If you text someone and he tells you something confusing, you can’t decide what he means just by guessing. You can’t hear his voice tone, see his reaction, or know what he thinks. Our minds are negatively biased because it usually thinks of the worst that might happen. “Psychological research over the last few decades has shown that humans have biases that affect our ability to perceive correctly. These biases affect not only our perception but also our judgment, behavior, and belief. Biased thinking leads to misunderstanding, wrong decisions, and too costly consequences and mistakes.”

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Receiving an unexplained text, you can infer that it has a different meaning without asking the person what it means. Because of the negative thoughts we have, we keep overthinking until our minds hurt. Now that we misunderstood a text, we start overthinking why could they have said so. Our minds start to think about the person who sent the text, and what is this person thinking about. “73 percent of 25-35 year-olds overthink compared to 52 percent of 45-55 year-olds and just 20 percent of 65-75 year-olds.” Our minds create negatively biased conclusions more than positive or neutral ones. “At a higher cognitive level, negative stimuli are hypothesized to carry greater informational value than positive stimuli, and to thus require greater attention and cognitive processing.” It’s in our human nature to think about the worst-case scenarios to protect ourselves, but it doesn’t always protect us. “When making judgments, people consistently weight the negative aspects of an event or stimulus more heavily than positive aspects.” Overthinking leads us to more thinking, and this doesn’t end up well.

After you misunderstood the message of the sender and overthought about its meaning, your emotions will get triggered and you will act upon that. When you usually misunderstand someone’s point of view that this person is attacking, you start being defensive or even attacking back. Even if the person you’re angry with doesn’t understand what’s happening, he’ll think you’re just being rude and argue with you. Therefore, an argument based on a nonexistent problem has been created. One of my cousins was arguing with our friend over texting; she interpreted that our friend meant that she doesn’t want to see her again. My cousin seemed like she overthought the situation more than twice a day. I talked to my cousin and understood what she meant, and that was just a misunderstanding that happened. Now they both don’t talk because of a misunderstanding that leads to an actual conflict. When you finally can’t reason anymore, you end whatever relationship you have with that person.

Talking to each other directly may avoid misunderstandings and negatively biased thinking. Facing the person you’re talking with, you get to see all their facial expressions and hear their voice and toning. Texting someone is not the best way to express your opinions. It leads to misunderstanding due to your negatively biased thoughts and not being able to hear the person’s tone. After that, you will be fed up from all the arguing and end up losing this relationship.

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