Texting — or textese, as some call it — is a wonderful shorthand method for communicating with others, especially your partner or special someone. What better way to let them know you’re thinking of them, that you love them, that they are the highlight of your day?
Which is a great thing you should be doing (if you’re not).
What texting is absolutely horrible for, however, is an argument or an in-depth discussion about any kind of serious issue. You shouldn’t do it — here’s why.
First, let’s acknowledge that all forms of not-in-person (NIP) communication lack nonverbal cues.1 Nonverbal cues, if you’ll remember from your Psychology 101 class, are what make up the majority of our communication with one another.
Once you’ve taken away a huge chunk of how we communicate, what you’re left with is something that’s going to be a little less than what you started with. Which is fine for most day-to-day communication with one another. “Hey honey, can you pick up some milk on your way home?” “Yb.” Done — simple, straight-forward, and to the point.
But how about this one: “I didn’t like it when put down my sister in our conversation last night. Not cool.”
This is much harder to parse… Is that simply assertiveness, or is there some anger in there too? Is she joking, because she puts down her sister all the time when she’s not around? Without knowing the emotional tone that accompanies that statement, it’s hard to say. Really, is a smiley face enough to convey complex emotions?
It would take another 4 or 5 texts just to clarify that one, and you can see how quickly it could progressively go downhill. Fast. Because the miscommunication and assumptions about what is being said will just start to pile on top of each other, confusing the receiver and adding even more miscommunication and hurt feelings into the mix.
Texting, by its very nature, is meant to be brief. It was designed to convey short snippets of information so people could connect with one another more easily, without a phone call. 2
But any conversation that’s serious or is likely going to lead to a disagreement deserves more than a text. A text is simply too short — lacking too much valuable emotional content — to do justice to who you’re sending it to.
Texting to Avoid Talking About Difficult Things
You may think, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m doing them (and me) a favor, by not having to bring this awkward subject up face-to-face.” Sorry, but then you’re avoiding an important component of what life is all about — learning to cope effectively and directly with all that life hands you.
By not talking face-to-face about difficult subjects, you’re simply engaging in what psychologists call “avoidance,” a defense mechanism. You’re avoiding the topic rather than facing it head on, using texting as a way to sort-of talk about it, but without all that messy irrationality that comes with a regular, direct conversation.
If a relationship is about emotionality, that means it’s about opening yourself up to another person so the two of you can share in all of life’s joys, pleasures, pitfalls, and circumstances whole-heartedly. Being emotional isn’t just limited to positive emotions — sometimes we have to deal with the negative ones too. Not dealing with them — by texting through a difficult conversation — is a good way to ensure your relationship will end sooner than it has to.
Need to talk to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or partner about something serious?
Put down the phone and talk to them next time you see them. You’ll be happy that you did.