Have you ever sent a text you wished you could take back? Or have you ever received a text that confused you, hurt you, or made you angry? If you have, you may understand how texting can be a risky framework for building relationships.
Face-to-face is where relationships live and thrive, so, as a rule of thumb, try to save the important stuff for face-to-face conversations. Here are eight specific things to avoid when texting:
“I told you not to text me during finals.” or, “You should be nicer to my parents.” Because your recipient can’t hear your voice, they have no idea just how big a deal this is to you. Does it warrant a breakup? Are you only mildly annoyed? Or are you just playing?
“I knew I could count on you to be late,” or, “Typical male response.” Insults, like complaints, aren’t any more fun to read than they are to hear, and they can be confusing. Also, you might regret what you said later when you’ve had more time to think about it. When it comes to negativity over texts, just don’t.
3. Explanations and apologies.
“I was so tired, I wasn’t thinking straight.” “I thought you’d appreciate having the tickets ahead of time.” Such explanations may be too complex for text. You won’t do yourself any favors by writing instead of talking. Instead, try, “I owe you an apology. Can we meet tonight?” Then take all the time you need to say it in person.
4. Questions about the other person’s behavior.
“Why didn’t you text me back yesterday?” or “R u mad at me?” Give the person a chance to explain without relying on their thumbs. Meet face to face, or at least voice to voice, before asking the question.
“I think we should see other people,” or, “They found a lump.” Even positive big news like, “I think I love you,” is best dropped in person, or at least in real time. Most people dislike getting bombshells via text, and might think less of you for doing it.
6. Heavy topics.
Texting wasn’t intended to be a substitute for serious conversations about heavy topics like child custody issues, IRS audits, health problems, etc. Wait for, or create, a face-to-face opportunity to discuss these.
7. Private information.
Credit card numbers, naked photos – anything you wouldn’t want to see posted all over the Internet – should not be texted, either. Hackers could gain access to your messages without your knowledge or permission.
“J. doesn’t know that M. and C. are dating behind D. and N.’s backs,” or “Betsy is such a klepto.” As above, always assume your message could end up in front of the wrong pair of eyes. Avoid risk. Just don’t.
The Courage Not to Text
No matter how many posts you read about what not to send in a text, you might still end up typing things you shouldn't. Why does this happen?
Many people are uncertain how to handle difficult conversations in person. Texting offers a feeling of safety and distance: You don’t have to look into the other person’s eyes and figure out how to respond from moment to moment.
If this describes you, it might help you to know that most of us have trouble with difficult conversations. Handling a topic flawlessly is not the point. The point is to show up and be open to floundering around a bit with someone who really matters to you.
For more, see Why Good Relationships Take Courage.