Anxiety. Joy. Exasperation. How is it possible that something as innocent as three little grey typing bubbles can elicit such a reaction?
What started as means to quickly and efficiently transfer information has transformed into the go-to method of communication. And, as such, there are certain rules (or there should be) that apply. Organising drinks, awesome. Dropping your location; excellent. Ending your relationship…not so much.
While texting is nothing new, the impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent global pandemic has forced us into a new normal. We have been cut off from human contact as we knew it. Thus, most of us have increased the frequency in which we text to maintain some semblance of connectivity. But, to what end?
According to psychologist Maggie Mulqueen, “On the surface, these texts may seem like an acceptable way to handle daily communication. Our increasing preference for texting over email and phone calls creates a higher quantity of interactions, but it decreases their quality, harming our relationships,”
Sure, texting is a valid form of communication, but you need to have certain emotional intelligence to do it effectively. Texting is an effective way to get a dialogue started however, it should not be the dialogue in its entirety.
If not, we risk becoming like Hamlet, endlessly spewing our own personal monologues. The harm in this is that you drop the proverbial word bomb and then exit stage left. While it’s always a good idea to express yourself, you should be mindful of your audience. Because, as they read your monologue, they cannot infer your tone or infection, nor can they ask for clarification, which leaves the door wide open for misinterpretation and miscommunication.
It is not surprising that thumb wars start when we opt for this form of communication. Texting easily lends itself to passive-aggressive behaviour– the type you might second guess in a face-to-face conversation. Consequently, because you can’t see facial expressions or body language, your level of empathy is reduced significantly. Not to mention the fact that texting makes it easier to tell untruths for the same reason; you don’t have to worry about your face or your voice betraying you.
And, honestly how often have you been guilty of sending or responding to texts while doing any number of other things? – Further, deteriorating the quality of our relationships. If you are watching tv, talking to someone else, or online shopping are you given your full attention to the person on the other side of the screen? The answer is most definitely NO.
Since texting is here to stay, what are some ways we can become a better digital communicator?
1. Know your audience
Consider the perspective of the person you are writing. How would you express your sentiments if you were in person?
2. Always respond
Although the jury is out on how quickly you should reply to a text, everyone can agree that you should respond. If not, it’s just rude.
3. Keep it short and sweet
If what you need to say requires multiple paragraphs, use the text to schedule an appropriate time for a call or video chat.
4. Admit when it is not a good time for you
Clearly state that you are unavailable to commit to a back-and-forth chat at the moment. This alleviates the pressure on you to respond in the moment as well as, alleviating any possible anxiety the sender would feel waiting for your reply.
5. Emojis aren’t not only for kids 😜
Emojis have come a long way since their inception. There is one for nearly every occasion and feeling. If you’ve got extra time on your hands, try personalizing them. Using them can communicate the mood of your message, as they are the closest to a facial expression you can get.