Texting is the lazy way to connect. We're all living fast and busy lives. We all want short cuts and quick fixes, but one place to take it slow is with communication.
How many of you have had these text message exchanges?
"Hey Julie, how you doing?"
"I'm doing good! How about u?"
"Things are good."
"Cool! So glad to hear."
For me, that's a wasted conversation. Sure, it's good to know that their friend is alive and doing okay -- and of course, I'm sure that's not how they talk when they are together in person.
I'm guilty of these text conversations myself. I call them parking meter conversations. I don't really want to have a full-on conversation, but I want to keep the connection alive somehow. Perhaps it's even a woman I like, but not that much, so I don't want to cut all ties with her. So I put another "coin" the in meter of the relationship by sending a quick text check-in and hope that the other person doesn't come back with anything more than "I'm good. You?"
Your Words Are Almost Meaningless
Communication isn't just words on a screen. When you send a text message, you're missing other key elements of human interaction. Your voice tone, your body language, the context of conversation. A text message, even with your most enthusiastic emoticons, is only getting part of your message across.
No wonder we've all had those text message misunderstandings that make us look we're stuck in a Three's Company episode and Mister Roper is knocking on the door.
But these days text messaging is so easy to do. It has so many benefits.
- You can still communicate in places where you can't or don't want to talk (doctor's office, libary, loud concert).
- You often get notifications (e.g. iMessage, What'sApp) that your message was delivered to their phone. You don't get that with a voicemail or missed call.
- You get to take your time and spend minutes or hours carefully crafting the perfect reply. Or the most flirty, but not too eager, invitation.
- You get to avoid being caught off guard if someone asks you a vulnerable question.
But those benefits also come with several drawbacks.
- You don't know what state of emotion the person was in when they received your message, and therefore how they interpreted it.
- You don't know if they actually read your message.
- It's often difficult to tell when someone is being sarcastic or passive-aggressive.
- You can get disassociated from the connection and forget that there is another human being on the other side of that conversation thread. Your ego can start to take over.
Ok, so given those nuances, how do we know when to text and when to call?
When to send a text message:
- You want to say a light compliment.
- You're coordinating logistics (when and where to meet or you are running late).
- You want to share a photo you just took.
- You or the other person is in a place where they can't talk on the phone.
When to call them on the phone or video chat:
- You're sad or angry and want to talk about it with them.
- You want to express your love and appreciation for them.
- You miss them. (Just call them first, don't wait for them to take the lead.)
- You need to have a serious conversation.
- Whatever you need to say can be wrapped up in a two-minute conversation rather than a 20-minute back-and-forth text exchange.
I think one trend in our society today is the phenomenon of the "appointment" culture. We no longer feel like we can just call someone. We need to set up a specific day and time to chat. We presume that everyone is busy and feel like we're interrupting them when we call them.
Yet the truth is no one is obligated to pick up the phone just because someone is calling them. We all know by now how to send the call to voicemail or put our phones on silent mode.
You want to call, then call. If that's still not your vibe, then text them to set up a time to call.
I will say that asking someone out on a date directly over the phone is a hell of a lot more ballsy than sending a text that says "Hey, you wanna hang out sometime?"
This isn't some moral diatribe on what is the right way to communicate, but it is an invitation to be a little bolder.
Stop hiding behind typing on a screen and reach out more to the people you call your friends and lovers.
Yes, it's a bit more intimate, vulnerable and unpredictable, but it's also a lot more real.
This piece was originally published on MeetMindful.com.