Texting and Relationships: How to Embrace Technology With Healthy Balance
Texting Shouldn't Be the Only Way We Communicate
While texting and messaging have their place, they shouldn’t be “every place” or “every time” and definitely not the only way to navigate our relationships.
“10% of conflict is due to a difference in opinion, but 90% is due to the wrong tone of voice". Not only does texting lack tone, but it also lacks body language and eye contact. Texting can make the most genuine of statements be perceived as insincere. I recently read "only 7% of what we would convey in person, is conveyed during a text". That said, I wouldn't run a marathon with only 7% of my available effort, so I certainly don't want to communicate in such a way.
Texting Has Replaced Face-to-Face Communication
Texting makes sharing negative feelings easier since you don’t have to “face” the person. Let's say you wish to apologize to someone, so you do it in a text message. What's missed here? For starters, an apology implies "I know I’ve hurt you". If in-person, I can make eye contact and you can hear the sincere tone in my voice. This step is completely missed in a text dialogue and can come across as a cowardly, insincere approach. The appeal of texting is less daunting for the sender and screams avoidance. It’s a cop-out and doesn't teach us how to handle direct conflict and take ownership of our actions.
This is my fear for current and future generations. There's more unacknowledged dialogue than acknowledged. There is a sense of entitlement and even stoicism. I admit I'm terrible when people seemingly don't want to converse with me or are showing passive aggression by not responding. I make things worse by continuing to send more messages, which starts the vicious cycle of feeling truly unimportant and devalued.
When People Don't Respond To Texts
How about the overwhelming fear of "the worst" when your child doesn’t respond? What about the basic unanswered texts? The ignored dialogue that leaves you wondering: “Did they see/receive it”? “Did something terrible happen to them"? “Are they upset with me"? Those are unsettling feelings that can go so far as to make or break our entire day.
Whether we want to admit it or not, deep down there's a crushing feeling something is amiss. Whether in a personal or professional setting, it causes distress and confusion. Next, we resend our texts again, just in case they didn't get it--but we know they did and we simply want that terrible, visceral gut-wrenching feeling of anxiety and fear to go away.
We No Longer Speak to One Another
If we go back to using the phone; it's with a clear expectation we'll be talking to voicemail because no one wants to answer anymore. There's also those who'll use a text to “return the call” and you never get to have a phone conversation. It wasn't that long ago when my girlfriends and I didn’t think twice about calling each other five times in a day to discuss our kids, arrange carpools and team meals, swap recipes, or just shoot the breeze for no good reason. Those days are long gone.
Texting and messaging is the easy way out of inconveniencing ourselves and others from having to deal with people, because we don’t want to, or don’t have to. Most of the time, I don’t want to talk either, and if I do, I'm a “hands-free” or Bluetooth kind of gal and prefer to chat while going about my cleaning, gardening, running, or whatever it is I need to be doing to complete my day.
My parents were always on my case because I was "out of breath" and on my cordless or cell phone every time they'd call me when I was a busy, multi-tasking, working mother of four and always on the go. They felt I was rude because I wasn't "sitting still' to talk to them and therefore, wasn't giving my undivided attention--and I wasn't. That was a no-win situation that caused more family distress than it needed to, but in my mind, it was better than not answering the phone at all (it was called "look at the caller-ID back then) and ignoring them until I had the time to call them back. It was hard finding a balance with that generation who were set in their non-technological ways. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and we're feeling ignored and unimportant with texting; the same way they felt.
There needs to be a balance. We shouldn't stray so far away from vocal communication we jeopardize our personal relationships. Everyone's "busy", (I hate that word and how loosely it's used when making excuses for our shortcomings and lack of communication) but we always find time for what or who is important.
Technology Can Be Good
I love technology and it’s continuing evolution, but not when it affects relationships or causes emotional distress. How can we find a suitable balance that keeps everyone's mind at ease and eliminates worry, fear, and confusion? We acknowledge we are busier now than ever before. Our children are involved in more activities than when we were kids, our jobs are more demanding, and we travel and are on the go more than ever. That’s the reality.
That said, people use texting as a way to arrange meet-ups, tell their loved ones "good morning, goodnight, or that they love them". In fact, one of the fond memories I have of texting was when my daughter was away at college and she'd text me "goodnight, drive safe, I love you" when I was at work (I'm an evening/night shift nurse). Not only was it comforting knowing she was thinking of me, but it made me more alert and conscious when I finally did punch out and start my 45-minute drive home at midnight. I felt loved and special.
In an effort to practice what I'm preaching, I make a point to answer every text and email as promptly as I can; even if I can't give a detailed or complete response at that moment. I acknowledge the sender and then respond fully when the time is right. I have my "read-receipts" (iPhone user) turned on for those closest to me so they at know I've received and read their message. I don’t want to make anyone feel unimportant. In other words “treat others as you’d like to be treated" applies here. After all, if we're communicating, in some way, you're someone important in my life and I want you to know this. It’s really that simple and an easy fix to preserve our humanity and relationships if we're going to fully embrace this technology and use it as our primary mode of communication.
Texting Vs. Talking
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Debra Roberts