Texting is helpful, that’s for sure. It’s great for basic, rapid-fire communication like sending an address or phone number. We can communicate factual information such as where we’re meeting for dinner without having to make the usual “Hi, how are you?” small talk. Those convenient delays between messages also give us more time to think of our response.
Sometimes it can even be a good way to set boundaries with difficult or verbose people. Despite all the benefits of texting and the “qwerty” keyboards on our smart phones, it can be tempting to get into a discussion or argument about emotionally loaded and unresolved issues over text. It’s less vulnerable than facing the awkward silences or figuring out how to respond to someone else’s distress.
The problem is that text messaging is a one dimensional conversation! The reader misses audible nuances and visual cues like body language and tone. In fact, a text message is only a partial message because it only contains the content of the message and not necessarily the intention of the writer!
This article in Psychology Today explains how the content of a message is only 7% communication! The other 58% is body language and the last 35% is through vocal tone, pitch and emphasis.
For example, the sentence “Sorry I couldn’t make it to the party” could be said with either sarcasm or sincere regret. The message being communicated can be altered completely by tone of voice and body language! Was it said with an eye roll or direct eye contact and a hand squeeze? Which words in the sentence were emphasized?
This could very well explain the rapidly growing popularity of emoji’s, which provide a variety of ‘facial expressions” which add emotion to their messages.
Misinterpretation is also a problem. Have you ever noticed that texting is often associated with multi-tasking? It sure is easy to miss important words in a message because you are simultaneously doing at least one other thing while texting.
A text conversation doesn’t always convey what we intend. While texting has its advantages, it’s also important to think about it in terms of one-dimensional conversation! The best way to send and receive messages continues to be face to face. This tried and true method of discussion includes all the nuances related to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice that helps the content of your message to be understood. Remember there are no substitutes for giving your undivided attention to the person you are talking to.