Do you ever find yourself wondering how a seemingly benign conversation can turn into a fight? How can a fight turn into a week’s or even month’s long standoff? How can this all spiral quickly and be a relationship extinction event?
Chances are texting was involved at some point.
Though it is the preferred method of communication these days, texting often has dire consequences for our relationships when it comes to conflict resolution.
There are three main features of texting that make it a terrible medium through which to have hot button conversations.
1. Time Lag
When you are speaking face to face, the conversation is immediate. It happens in real-time when both people are present and ready to participate in it. Because of this both people often have the confidence that they will get to say their piece and that the conversation will eventually come to its logical conclusion. Texting doesn’t have that same immediacy. You may be texting each other at totally different times of the day and therefore there could be hours or even days between replies. The conversation may lose its momentum with each person feeling like they didn’t get to say everything they wanted when they wanted. This in turn can and often does lead to feelings of mounting anger and resentment. When this happens we may go out of our way to say mean or spiteful things partly out of the frustration with the original argument and partly to get the other person’s attention.
2. Lack of tone and body language
Tone and body language account for the lion’s share of context in a face to face conversation. Without these important clues, you may totally misinterpret what the other person is trying to convey. Conversely, your intentions could be totally misinterpreted as well. The very same written message can be read in a myriad of different ways. Often the way we read a text message has more to do with our own mindset than the one of the sender. So if you are already angry with the person you are texting, you are much more likely to interpret what they are saying as intentionally hurtful or bewilderingly inconsiderate when in reality this could be far from the truth.
3. Emojis, memes, GIFs
Gone are the days when texting was just words. Nowadays, texting is a multimedia exchange. Emojis, stickers, memes, GIFS, links, screenshots, and video clips are often incorporated into texting exchanges. This practice can really enrich our ability to connect and exchange information, however it can also muddy the water when it comes to conflict resolution. You can never be fully sure that the meme you sent as an olive branch will be interpreted as such. The meaning of many emojis is often culturally and generationally specific so using them can lead to communication misfires.
So when you have something important to say, try to have a video call or a face to face meetup. If you do end up in an online argument, consider using a heavy dose of kindness, generosity, and patience.
If you are currently in a heated text exchange and you are not sure how to get through it, feel free to reach out and we can tackle it together.