Texting has revolutionized how we communicate. Many people report that they use their cell phones more for texting than for making actual phone calls. The convenience of instant communication, while avoiding the time consuming filler of a conversation, is attractive to people. However, the ease of this kind of communication can bring two temptations:
- We can text things that really should now be said. Inhibitions that normally serve as relational guardrails seem to drop when fingers do the communicating.
- Communicating digitally allows for things to be shared that are best delivered face to face (this will be the focus of topic here).
Communication Via Text
Something happens when our fingers become the conduit of communication. When you take away the face to face or even the voice to voice impact, our fingers become freer to vent. We open up through typed messages more than we would if we had to deal with the face to face interaction. An article from CNN Tech brings up a good point. When discussing using text messaging to communicate things such as an apology, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle wrties on what is lost via text message. The article explains:
When the apology takes place over the phone rather than in person, the visual cues are lost of course, but the voice—and the sense of hurt and contrition it can convey—is preserved. Part of the appeal of texting in these situations is that it’s less painful. But the pain is the point. “The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged,” Turkle says. “Those things are what lead to better relationships” (We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Textmessaging- CNN Tech.)
Apologizing via text is very common. But that’s not all. In doing marriage counseling, one thing I have observed is that people are holding some of the most significant conversations over text messaging. It is becoming one of the main ways some couples are communicating. The problem is they are missing some of the key factors in building true communication; communication that grows the relationship.
In marriage counseling, I will often hear of conversations the couple has had during the week. These are often the areas of significance to them. When we begin to discuss things in the counseling room it is not uncommon for one or the other spouse to say, “I have never heard him say that to me before,” or “I did know she felt that way.” While they may have communicated about the specific subject the communication was over text messages or emails. So much of a person’s heart is lost in the black and white text. They find that they don’t really know how the other feels because they are experiencing very little openness face to face. In fact the more they communicate digitally the more uncomfortable it seems to hold those conversations in person.
There is a serious disconnect that is happening because of this. Many times these couples feel misunderstood. They also often feel disconnected from each other. While they may be electronically communicating they are, in reality, talking very little and growing more and more distant.
What tends to happen when conversations begin to be mainly in text format is that your relationship will suffer the effects of the missing significant elements of communication. While you may be getting your message across you miss really understanding or relating to the person and the relationship is not built.
We live in a digital age and the convenience of the electronics brings a huge help to everyday life. As convenient as it may be, communicating via text and email is not the best means to build a deep connection. Nothing beats good one on one conversation to strengthening your relationship. The more we use our cell phones to communicate, the more difficult it becomes to share feelings face to face.
Guarding Your Communication
Here are a few tips to guard your communication from slipping into a digital distance.
- Don’t limit your kindnesses to texting. As easy as it is to fall into having difficult conversations over texts it is also easy to default your kindness to texts. While saying I love you or thank you is great to see come over your phone it is also nice to hear too. Take advantage of face to face times to bring encouragements to your spouse.
- Avoid having conversations that incite deep feelings over texts. These include things like apologies or confrontations. Also any significant questions you want to ask are best asked in person.
- Make time to meet face to face. Make an appointment with your spouse. This is not necessarily a date night. Think of it as a time to check in on how things are going. Set up a time where you can plan to have those conversations that are easily marginalized in the busyness of daily life. Meet at a place conducive to talking. Avoid places with a lot of distraction or interruptions.
When it comes to your relationships texting can be a big help in keeping up with logistics and schedules. It can also be an easy way to send quick caring messages or to let someone know you are thinking of them. But when it becomes the medium you use to work through conflict or discuss things close to your heart you are selling your relationship short. You need to have these conversations face to face.
Join the Conversation
What can you do today to put your relationship on a better path of communication?