Friends, I continue to be dismayed when I talk with couples in distress who describe the hurtful text messages they’ve shared with each other. It seems like “Basic Communication 101” when I say to them they need to discontinue having important discussions (especially disagreements) via text message. I ran across the following article by Erica Florentine who puts this into a great perspective.
While texting is convenient for communicating quickly, there are certain conversations you should avoid until you’re face to face. Most of them seem obvious, yet many people still continue to do it. For instance, breaking up with someone through a text message. Wasn’t that a tactic we should have ditched many, many years ago? Regardless, countless people still think it’s a good idea, despite how hurtful it may be.
Florentine points out, according to a study reported on by CNN, one-third of Americans prefer texting to voice calls, which comes as no surprise. Also, with the age of the Internet, we have become much less likely to be open to face-to-face confrontation. Texting, then, feels safer.
Here are six talks you should simply avoid until you’re face to face.
1. Any argument at all
This is so difficult to avoid these days, I know, but it’s so important. Let’s say you’re not much of a confrontational person, but someone is really making you irritated. It can seem really simple to send a text expressing your frustration, rather than waiting to speak to him or her in person. Nothing manages to turn what might otherwise be a tiny quarrel into a full on brawl quite like texting, though. The issue is that texts are very easily misinterpreted, and those on either end of the conversation could each be reading the communication completely differently.
Florentine says, “I’ve sent rude and sarcastic texts to get little things off my chest before, like the time I sent a friend, “Hey, nice of you to show up last night.” Then, that snowballed into a month-long argument. By the end of the month, I genuinely had no idea what we were even fighting about anymore. Now, I try my hardest in all situations to see the person live if I have something I’m angry about, and talk it out that way. If in-person isn’t physically possible, worst-case scenario make a phone call. At least you’ll hear the person’s tone and get immediate (and more likely, genuine) response.”
2. The “What are we?” conversation
If you’re at the “are we or aren’t we?” point with someone you’re seeing romantically, it can definitely feel uncomfortable to ask if they consider it to be a relationship or not. The fear of what their response will be can give you serious anxiety. What about texting them, so you don’t have to verbally hear their response — and rather — can just read it? Nope. Don’t do this.
3. Serious business discussions
Whether the issue is extremely complex and might get easily confused through text, or you’re discussing large sums of money or upcoming layoffs, none of this is right for a texting conversation.
4. Big life decisions
Are you ready to meet my parents? Are we moving toward marriage? Should we have kids soon? Should we move in together? None of these are topics that should be decided upon through text. Any time you’re trying to make a big life decision collectively with another person, you should be doing so in person. Florentine writes, “It’s helpful to discuss these things in person because it allows you to get a quick and real response, rather than a thought-out and precisely executed one. If your partner physically flinches initially when you bring up adopting a dog, you will know that their, “Umm, I mean… maybe,” response might lean towards a giant nope.”
5. Letting someone know about a serious illness
This should go without saying, but any news that is worthy of worrying and/or scaring the other person should not happen through text. Of course, an exception comes into play if there is a large amount of physical distance that doesn’t allow for this conversation to happen in person, but even then, it should be done via a phone call.
6. Relaying news that a loved one has passed away
Similarly to sharing news of being ill, finding out someone you love has passed away through a text is wrong. It’s impractical to think the news of someone passing can always be told to their loved ones in person — sometimes they might be literally on the other side of the world when it happens. However, it should at least be explained through a phone call, no matter how difficult and terrible the call might be.
Even though it may be more simple, and sometimes seem far less confrontational, to send a text on certain topics, as we can see there are times when it’s flat out inappropriate. By keeping these conversation topics in mind, we can collectively become far better (and kinder) communicators.
What do you think? Have your read this post by Florentine? Did you love it as much as I did? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or email me anytime.
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This post is from David Sheets. David is founder of Marriage Matters USA. David has been married to Bea for 41 years and they have 2 children and 6 grandchildren. He has served in church ministry for 41+ years in music, worship and marriage ministry. David is a certified facilitator of Prepare|Enrich and SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) assessments. After leading a thriving marriage ministry at McLean Bible Church in Washington DC, David and the board of directors developed a strategy to make this powerful, agile ministry available to church planters, churches and other target groups. Email David here.
Marriage Matters USA facilitates the development and growth of marriage ministries by delivering Christ-centered leadership training and providing partnership opportunities among churches to enable them to more effectively enrich marriages in their community.