The email hack that steals your creativity

January 16, 2019 by

Nothing shoots me to the top of the silly scale quite like someone trying to tell me how I should feel about something.

My husband loves to tease me about the time I dropkicked his basketball down a hill in college. The moment he turned to me laughing and said, “You will get that,” (because it WAS a jerk move, and up to that point I HAD been planning to get it) I felt the flirty fun curdle into a feral little gremlin in my belly.

While I’ve developed a few strategies for handling myself in these situations, they don’t always save me from the knee-jerk reaction that loads my adrenaline cannons.

Take for instance my mother’s email asking if I could join her and my sister for lunch. Totally unremarkable except that, for the first time ever, Gmail included 3 clickable response options at the bottom of the message.

By the time I finished reading those, my metaphorical guns were at the ready. 

Now, if I hadn’t seen those responses, I would have probably freehanded something like, “Order the yam fries for me!” But the mere presence of these Smart Reply buttons hijacked my conversation with my mom. They had me thinking in terms of yes/no, free/busy instead of yam fries/sister laughter.

In the scheme of life, email shortcuts seem trivial (especially at work!). But I believe voice and individuality accumulate through conversation strings like this to develop the chemistry that ultimately defines our relationships. If we cut our personality out of our correspondence, we could be cutting ourselves off from a genuine connection. By the time we get to email, we’ve already cut out the face-to-face and the phone. Do we really need to get less personal with people?

Email has serendipitously helped me realize that my flash-anger onset is a defense mechanism for times when I feel like my personal story (or my right to tell my story the way I want to tell it) is being threatened. Because what am I if not the story I tell? 

We all have the unique privilege of being exactly who we are. I want to see, hear, and read your story exactly the way you live it. After all, you do you best.  Why let a computer hack you with generic responses?