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Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

“I threw it on the ground”: Andy Samberg’s call to resist reading between the lines.

It’s human nature to read between the lines —  to try to discover hidden meanings, detect false motives, and discern the implications of things.

  • We get invited to dinner by new friends, and wonder, Are they trying to sell us something?
  • Someone fails to reply to our text, and we think, That means they don’t like us and only care about themselves. 
  • We’re at a party and someone glares at us from across the room. We think, They’re so stuck up. We tell friends about it, only to find later that they didn’t mean any ill will. They were looking at the wall, not at us.

I resist this tendency to read between the lines because I want to build my life on the bedrock of truth and steer clear of thin-ice speculation. For years now I’ve been working to check this inclination and instead, to believe the best in people.

It’s liberating. It drains the swamp on interpersonal drama. When I ask and clarify before jumping to conclusions, I don’t have to carry around so much self-imposed stress. When I say, “I could be wrong about this, and I often am,” I can let things go instead of getting bitter. When I say, “I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt,” I get along so much better. People seem so much nicer and better when I’m thinking this way.

This could be why I love the “Threw It On the Ground” video so much. Comedian Andy Samberg’s SNL character plays an anti-establishment hipster/rapster with a chip on his shoulder, walking the streets of New York in defiance at every supposed affront to his dignity and every subtle manipulation of his freedom. Samberg’s character is always reading between the lines, and it constantly sets him off.

That makes it a self-help video. I get a good laugh, see how stupid it is when I read between the lines, and take the lesson to heart.

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