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The Stupid Texting Syndrome (STS)

Do you have it?

This is the first of two blogs that I am writing about this topic. The first focuses on personal relationships and how STS can lead to frustration and is an enormous waste of time. The second will focus on business. While business communication often involves emails rather than texts, the same pattern leads to a similar outcome, frustration, wasted time, and no resolution.

Stupid Texting Syndrome Defined

The Repetitive Use of Text or E-mail to Reach an Agreement or Solve a Problem.

Creative Commons CC0
Source: Creative Commons CC0

Case Study

Recently a good friend and I wanted to get together for coffee, to talk about a trip that he'd recently taken, discuss some work we’re doing together, and get caught up. And so, we exchanged a series of texts which continued on for 2½ days.

Prelude – The Previous Week

Me: If you’re back in town, let’s meet for coffee. We’re going to LA tomorrow.

Him: Back late tonight. Get together this week.


Him: Saturday coffee/lunch?

Me: Coffee @ 8:30 at the usual place?

Him: Working with my finance person 8:30-11:00 am. Can we meet at 11:30am?

Me: Sunday morning?

Him: Sunday AM doesn’t work. Sunday PM can

Me: Saturday @ 7 AM?

Him: Sorry. Need to prep for meeting @ 8:30

Me: Siiighhhhhh!

Him: Saturday PM or Sunday PM?

Me: Dinner Sunday night?

Saturday @ 4 PM

Him: Just picked up your text. Busy Sunday night. Sorryy!

Sunday Morning

Me: Left you a voicemail.

Note that the tone of our exchange becomes a bit more strained as the text exchanges continue. We were both ready to give up on getting together that weekend but after my last text, he called me and asked, "How about this afternoon?"

I replied, “Does 1:30 work?” He agreed, and we had a wonderful time, leaving with our relationship/friendship intact.

So why do I call this the “Stupid Texting Syndrome?” Because that's exactly what it is! If I get a text from a friend, family member, or colleague, and if I pick it up immediately, I have a choice. If it's a simple request and I can text back yes, that's all there is to it.

However, if I'm not able to reply in the affirmative, rather than texting something like "No, I can’t make it, how about another day or time?," I should call and in a minute or two of conversation, we are likely to come up with a solution that is mutually acceptable, (a specific time and a specific place), or determine that it isn’t going to work this time around.

Source: Pinterest

In the latter case, we continue exploring alternatives in terms of another day, another weekend, another time, and are likely to get things resolved in a way that is, pleasant, effective, and efficient.

So, to help you do that, I'm going to lay out some of the ways to know if you’re in a Stupid Texting Syndrome and propose a way out. As noted above, this applies to business conversations, as well as personal relationships.

Personal Relationship Ground Rules for Texting

1. Texting that is confirming, or makes a simple request is fine.


“Got the FedEx you sent”

“My flight will be arriving at 6:16 PM”

“Will pick you up at 8 unless I hear from you”

2. Texting an initial attempt to set up a meeting time.


“Talk today at 4 PM? – Please confirm.”

“Got your report – confirming 6PM phone call.”

“Will call you on my way home from work – if you don't pick up, we’ll schedule another time.”

If you get a response other than a ‘yes,’ CALL IMMEDIATELY.

3. Providing information


“Emailed you a link to the article we were talking about.”

“Check out the new production at the playhouse.”

“Got a great report from my MD. Off all meds in 30 days.”

But here’s what’s crucial -

If the response you get is something other than a "yes” or “that's fine,” pick up the phone and call. Don't text back, or you’re going to get into a Stupid Texting Syndrome with no results!

The Public Queue
Source: The Public Queue


Okay, throw everything that I just said out the window if you're trying to connect with anyone under the age of 20, particularly your children, or grandchildren.

In general, this demographic does not answer phone calls, respond to emails, or listen to voicemails.

They do almost always respond to texts.

Here is the system that was agreed upon by my family. If I want/need to talk to any of my adult children or grandchildren, I send a text that says:

"This is dad, please call me" with one of the following notations:

NBD – (no big deal, call within the next few days)

BD – (big deal, call within 24 hours)

BFD – (big f**king deal, call as soon as you get this!)

So far, it's working!

If you have other thoughts, ideas, or solutions, please share them with the readers of this blog.

More from Morton H Shaevitz Ph.D., ABPP
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