Keep Using Periods, Learn to Assume Positve Intent / by Adrian Galli

For years, probably decades, people have been discussing the fact that a period in a text message (iMessage, Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messaenger, etc.) suggests the one you're messaging is mad. There have been articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Gizmodo, and many other publications surrounding this phenomenon; they've all stuck me as odd. 

While looking through my messages, many of my friends and colleagues, and not just Millenials but ages ranges from 20's to 50's, don't use periods. I still do. Mostly because I'm particular about accuracy, I like proper spelling, punctuation, and such. 

While I may be in the minority concerning periods, I rarely assume someone is mad because of a period. The context of the conversation, as with so many thing, is very important. And equally important, as anyone who knows me will attest, sometimes my disagreement with someone is simply because their argument is not valid.

I will commonly say, "I don't disagree with your conclusion, I disagree with your supporting argument." Or sometimes the argument is sound but the conclusion is not. In the case of the period, I disagree with both because it is your own internal struggle causing the miscommunication rather than then act of someone using a period.  

An old rule I have come to appreciate greatly is 'assume positive intent.' The philosophy behind that statement is most people are good and try to do good things. In other words, innocent until proven guilty. It is a guiding principle of an organization I work for and has served us well for decades. 

From Washington Post: 

Parent: I am waiting for you in the car.

Child: r u mad?

Parent: I am not mad.

Parent: I am telling you I am waiting.

Child: what?????
— Juff Guo, Washington Post

The child assumes the parent is mad. We don't have the whole conversation or context in which this was messaged so it is harder to argue either point. But I can safely say there are other things more glaring than periods that could be interpreted as hostility. For example, the formal text 'I am' versus 'I'm' could be cause for concern. Even with the formal sound of the parent, I would suggest not being overly concerned with the period at the end. 

I tend to use emoji in texts to clarify messages. If we ere to have a face to face conversation, you would pick up on my mood much more easily partly because of tone and facial expressions/body language. The former is hard to convey in a message but the later, through an emoji or two, can greatly enhance the conversation. 

Without a psychologist or sociologist weighing in on the method to our messaging madness, the assumption of negativity in a text from a mere punctuation mark speaks more to our overall sociological state rather than the actual mean of a period which is "end statement." Assuming a person is made is no you, not the peson using the period. If you're messaging me and I am mad, you'll have little doubt in your mind. 

I'm going to keep using periods in my messages and emails but should you be messaging me, know that every single thing I say is not out of anger. That would be a false assumption of epic proportion. Learn to assume positive intent and I really think you'll find the people in your life are much kinder than the period in their text suggests.