Use it for information, not communication.
A couple of years ago, my now husband and I attended a workshop for couples aptly titled “Rules of Engagement.” It would be at this very workshop where we’d learn something that would change how we both viewed texting and help improve communication within our relationship.
At least twenty couples were present at this workshop, all of different ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and orientations. Some were engaged, and some, like my partner and I, weren’t engaged yet, but in talks about marriage. Some also, like my partner and I, weren’t on their first marriage.
A couple of years ago, my now-husband and I attended a workshop for couples aptly titled “Rules of Engagement.” It would be at this very workshop where we’d learn something that would change how we both viewed texting and help improve communication within our relationship.t on their first marriage.
The moderator began with a doozy: “The person sitting next to you will be the person that makes you grow the most in your entire life. You’ll love them. You’ll hate them, but you’ll either grow together, or you’ll grow apart.”
I turned and looked at my partner and gave him a bit of a half-smile.
Then the moderator began with the first topic: communication. He scanned his eyes over the crowd of couples and said,
“When you text, use it for information, NOT communication.”
A few couples met each other’s eyes and laughed. We were one of them.
The difference, the moderator explained, is this:
“I’ll be there at 7.” (information)
“I hate how your mother always criticizes my parenting. It’s like she thinks I’m a terrible mother.” (communication)
“Things are always lost when you communicate over text, so don’t do it. Wait until you’re in front of each other. Look into each other’s eyes and tell your partner you don’t like how their mother talks to you. Do not do it over a text message.”
“You,” my partner said, taking my hand, “are the worst at that.”
I looked down sheepishly. I had to admit he was right.
Every person has likely committed this error at least once (or, if you’re like me, buckets of times). Texting is an easy way to connect with our loved ones when we’re away from them.
That moderator was right. There is so much lost when we text. The other person can’t see our facial expressions or our body language or hear how we’re voicing certain things. Without those things in place to flesh out how they should take something, they can fill in the gaps with awfulness and then you’ve got an unnecessary squabble on your hands.
UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian found that 55% of communication is through body language, 38% through vocal tone, pitch, and emphasis, and a mere 7% through words. The reason why only 7% of our communication is based on words is that sometimes our words don’t match our body language.
Here’s an example: “I don’t have a problem with it,” you say, but your jaw is clenched and your arms are crossed over your chest. Your body language is clearly not matching your words. If you’d just texted that information, your partner wouldn’t know that you, in fact, did have a problem with it, and I bet your partner would be in for a world of fun when you met up.
I, too often, have tried to use texts for communication instead of information. The photo I include above of a text message is a real one from a real conversation I attempted to have with my partner while he and I were both at work. Needless to say, I made things a lot worse by trying to do that over text.
Many people, like myself, choose to text these kind of things because it seems easier. Our phones are always within reach while our loved ones are not.
We also may want things settled now because we’re impulsive. I know when I’m feeling such a way, I want my partner to know now. Plus, my partner and I can be apart for twelve hours at a time, so that can feel like forever.
Further, I don’t like communicating my feelings in person. It makes me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, and I don’t want to do that in front of anyone, even if it is my forever someone. Also as a writer, I just prefer to write over talk. Writing means I can delete, shape, and re-think things before sending them, while I can’t press “delete” once something has left my lips.
That workshop taught me, though, that it must be something I actively work on. There have been a few occasions now over the years where one of us has said to the other, “Hey, I think it’d be best if we waited to talk about this until later. Remember? Information, not communication?
We all want and deserve happier and healthier relationships, and if we could get that by giving up something as seemingly small as not sharing our feelings over text, why not do it? It could lead to you and your partner having the kind of intimacy and understanding you’d both want.
Written by Tara Blair Ball