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 isn't the best way to navigate our relationships.
Not only does texting lack tone, but it also lacks body language and eye contact too. Texting can make the most genuine of statements 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 at 7% effort either.
“10% of conflict is due to a difference in opinion, but 90% is due to the wrong tone of voice".— Unknown
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 missing here? For starters, an apology implies, "I know I’ve hurt you." If in-person, there is eye contact, and you can hear the sincere tone in the voice. This step is completely missed in a text dialogue and can come across cowardly and insincere. 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.
My concern is we have more unacknowledged dialogue than acknowledged. There's a sense of entitlement and even stoicism. I admit I'm terrible when people seemingly don't want to converse with me or show passive aggression by not responding. I make things worse by continuing to send more messages, which feeds the vicious cycle of feeling 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 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 break our day--and in most cases, cause ongoing anxiety.
Whether we admit it or not, there's a crushing feeling something is amiss. Whether in a personal or professional setting, it causes distress and confusion. We resend our texts again, just in case they didn't get then--but deep down, we know they did, and we want that visceral, gut-wrenching feeling of anxiety and fear to go away.
We No Longer Speak to One Another
If we resort to the phone, it's with a known expectation we'll be talking to voicemail because no one answers anymore. Some 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 chat 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. Generally, I don’t want to talk either, and if I do, I'm a “hands-free” or Bluetooth kind of gal. I 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 upset because I was "out of breath" on my cordless or cell phone whenever they'd call. 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 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 time to call back. It was hard finding a balance with that generation set in their non-technological ways. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I'm 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 relationships. Everyone's "busy." (I hate that word and how loosely folks use it when making excuses for our shortcomings and lack of communication). 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 proper 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." One fond memory I have of texting was when my daughter was away at college. She'd text "goodnight, drive safe, and I love you" when I was at work. (I'm an evening/night shift nurse) It felt comforting knowing she was thinking of me, and I was more alert and conscious of my 45-minute drive home at midnight. I felt loved and special.
To practice what I peach, I answer every text and email as promptly as I can, even if I can't give a detailed or complete response at that second. I acknowledge the sender and then respond adequately 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. 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 that simple and easy fix to preserve our humanity and relationships if we're going to embrace this technology 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