I read the other day that 91% of American adults now own cell phones. In fact, many of us have completely retired land lines. Why not? Cell phones allow us to be connected to the world, communicate in 3 different formats (voice, email, & text), and easily slide into a pocket or purse. Love ‘em or hate ‘em; they are here to stay.
Consequently, communication is changing and not necessarily for the better. I personally, have a love/hate relationship with texting. I love that I can send a message instantaneously and simultaneously to people regardless of their location. I hate that I have to type it on a 4 inch keyboard (although voice dictation has helped with that). I love that I can easily and quickly share a thought with someone no matter where I am. I hate that auto correct changes the context of my messages. I love that I can send a photo to clarify a grocery list item or a clothing store purchase. I hate that emoji’s have replaced feeling words.
At least weekly during a couples therapy session, someone speaks about an argument or hurt feelings that happened through a course of texting. Countless times, clients have pulled out their phones to read ‘a text’ from someone that created a negative emotional reaction. Silent screaming matches, hateful words, and spiteful statements in print… spewed easily from an electronic keyboard and delivered through cyberspace without thought of immediate consequence. Ugh!
If I could wave a magic wand that would instantly help any and all relationships, it would be to STOP texting ANYTHING that is negative, combative, or confrontational. I strongly recommend that if you need another New Year’s resolution, make it THIS one. Texting may never go away as it is seemingly embedded into our modern culture but we can change the impact of derogatory texting if it is something that we refuse to do.
We can still enjoy the ease of communicating via text when sending loving, supportive, or even benign messages:
- Have a great day!
- Thinking of you.
- I love you
- Have a good trip!
- Good luck today.
- Please pick up some milk.
- I’ll meet you there.
- Your appointment is at 3 pm.
Notice that each of these is quick, supportive, or just informational. Send as many as you like!
These are the type of messages to AVOID:
- What was that supposed to mean?
- Why are you doing this to me?
- What are your thoughts?
- Do you love me?
- What should we do?
- When will you change?
- Do you even care?
Essentially, if the answer could include emotions, deep thoughts, and/or complex opinions… MAKE IT A VOICE CONVERSATION!!!
Your relationship is in trouble if the only way you feel communication is safe is to do it through text or email. While I agree that it may allow for you to take some time and clarify thoughts, it cannot be a primary mode of conversing during difficult emotional events.
It’s important to consider that communication is much more than words! It includes facial expressions and body posture, neither of which can be seen or interpreted via text of course. So many contexts are transmitted via physical gestures / looks.
Consider the statement “Are you kidding?” Is there a smile with that or a growl? Is it meant as a question or a statement? When it appears as simple words on a screen we really don’t know.
My recommendation is to eliminate all texting that is better served via vocal communication even if it may be a difficult conversation. Learning to disagree and argue constructively is an important element in a healthy relationship; a necessary talent. It simply cannot be productive in print.