9 texting tips to avoid unnecessary drama, and help you make sense. *Disclaimer. This guide is not FDA approved. Based on personal experiences, observations, and anecdotal evidence of friends.
The written word is one of my favorite modes of communication. It’s delightful to feel as though I can slow time and craft the exact phrase to say what I mean. But in regards to texting, this preference has landed me in trouble a couple of times in the past. Men and women have different modes of thinking, and therefore we don’t always communicate or interpret messages in the same way. While this guide is geared more towards the single woman, if you have a brother, boyfriend, father, friend, husband, or any other man in your life with whom you desire to stop getting lost in translation with, read on.
# 1 Separate your questions
Women tend to speak in paragraph narratives, naturally stringing together the dots of far-flung content all in the one breath. But our male human counterparts, however, excel in the laser focus of single tasks and can find this habit frustrating. Thus, over time, I have learned to avoid compounding my questions.
A standard compound question text: “Hey! how was your day? Are you hungry? I was thinking of swinging by the grocery store to pick up some dinner food. Should we meet at Trader Joe’s or Chipotle? Unless you want to go straight to the movies? BTW, did you check the showtimes for Ghost Busters?”
Despite your well fired shotgun round of six questions, he will most likely respond to one, saying something like, “yes.” or “I already ate.” Now your feelings are hurt, and you’re both lost all because you forgot that men are single question organisms.
The better alternative: “Hey, A) Are you hungry? B) If so, would you rather meet up at Trader Joe’s or at Chipotle? C) What time is Ghost Busters? D) [insert a brief but kind ending signifying positive anticipation about catching up when you see him].” Discuss the details of his day upon your arrival, and for best results, divide the questions into different texts altogether.
#2 Practice “Emoji Integrity”
If used well, emojis can bring a sense of fun and facial expression clarity to the texting threads :). However, never leverage an emoji to launch you into a false realm of relational reality. For example, if you send dozens of kissing faces but have yet to extend your arms in a physical hug, the discrepancy sends a mixed message. Likewise, if you frequently “sob” detailed renditions of your latest tragedies via screen, but never share a single vulnerable word to their face, it’s a little weird and invites misunderstanding. Keep emojis as consistent as possible with your live emotional expression.
#3 Say what you mean
The dark side of the intuitive sensitive personality type that so many of us women possess, is an innate temptation to avoid awkwardness or confrontation by describing situations in a circuitous manner. In doing so, we essentially expect the guy to act like God and read our minds.
The indirect and circuitous text: “Sorry I acted so hysterical earlier. Some gender-specific physiological circumstances are subjecting me to a greater spectrum of moods… Think about it: How would you feel if you spent an entire month building a state of the art facility chicken coop. But due to the moral code of the hen, and the apparent tentativeness of the interested eligible roosters, the egg went unfertilized, and the construction employees held an emo-punk themed demolition party to rip the chicken coop to shreds in fits of hysteria, mourning, and rage? Anyway, that’s how I feel. It would be nice if you could support me by depositing more of my preferred love language currency in my emotional bank account—if you know what I mean 😉 …”
Well, he does not know what you mean. There is a slight chance this could go over successfully in person, but over text– especially if it involves apologies, or asking for something specific–just get to the point. You can always fill him in with a metaphorical illustration later.
The better alternative: “I felt sad earlier because you neither read my mind nor picked up on my subtle cues. I assumed everyone knew hysterical came from the root word hyster, meaning womb. But I was wrong. I’m sorry about my emotional outburst and act of assumption.” [Hit send, begin separate text] “What I meant to say is: I’m on my period. My serotonin/mood levels are < normal. It would mean a lot if you could provide me with an extra hug for the next 4 days. Thanks :).” And there, in half the words, half the confusion, and double the effectiveness, you delivered essentially the same message.
# 4 “Haha.” is not an intentional withholding of affection
Many women place a portion of their self-esteem on the man’s ability, or willingness, to express sheep-like laughter, ie the BAAHAHAHAH, in a timestamped written form. Now, I enjoy the genuine chortling of a sheep laugh, but if your jokes require constant reassurance sandwiched in “tears of joy” emojis, take a moment and put yourself in his shoes. Seriously, is he the type of guy that would read a text and think to himself… “I’m upset so I will disguise my anger with my stealthy ‘2 ha revenge tactic’ and deprive her of the 4 HAs she craves?” If this sounds anything other than completely ridiculous, you might have a deeper problem— 0r you’re texting a drama sheep. Realistically, people text at all odd hours of the day, often under limited attention. The guy might have glanced at his phone between sets of squats at the gym and the effort for one more HA would have disrupted to the workout/ recovery ratio. Haha. If they are present when with you in-person, don’t worry about it.
# 5 In the case of an argument, abort mission, and call
If both of you get lost in a thorny thicket of misunderstandings, don’t muddy the waters even more with a complex texplanation. Like a driver in an emergency, pull the conversation car over to the call box, unbuckle the pride restraints, hit the call button or skype icon, and exercise your vocal cords.
# 6 Do not search for hidden meanings
While careful scrutiny in some areas of life can lead to insight or wisdom, in texting, over analysis is downright dangerous. The content meaning is subject to interpretation and often skewed by your own emotional state. On a day of brimming self-confidence and high hopes, a simple wink face could be read as wildly flirtatious ;-). On the other hand, during a self-perceived bloated or bad hair day, the same guy could text “you looked great,” and you will see a code of sarcasm dripping with underlying meanings of ugly. Symbolism, tone, and allegory are great for English class (or chats with your favorite bloggers) but in this case, it’s unlikely you’re texting Shakespeare. If he says, “you looked great,” or “I had fun,” he probably means exactly that. No more, and no less.
#7 Avoid “text purgatory” at all costs
In the traditional Roman Catholic faith, purgatory is a place of suffering and waiting between heaven and hell. I define text purgatory as the obsessive and shackled place of angst one enters (usually in the realm of a new or insecure relationship) while they await the response, of either acceptance or rejection from a particular and often elusive, person of interest.
The road to text purgatory is paved with ambiguity and a series of premature text confessionals. Two intentionless, noncommittal co-ed companions, for whatever reason, throw emoji integrity to the wind and exchange the deepest details of the heart. If sharing occurs like conversational clockwork during the most vulnerable waking hours—ie last thing before going to sleep and first thing upon wake up—textual tension and perceived emotional intimacy skyrockets. Thus if the mysterious, and now idealized, person falls off the grid for a mere 24 hours, the waiting period between responses—much like purgatory—feels life threatening.
The best-known antidotes to text purgatory are as follows: Say what you mean, be smart with your heart, fix your eyes on heaven, and immerse yourself in a life on earth so full of real people and joyous happenings that you even forget to look at your phone from time to time.
#8 Don’t use texting alone to discern character
If you text someone so often that they basically live in your purse next to the chihuahua, it’s deceptively easy to believe you truly know them based on the quantity of what they have shared (or vented), or the extent to which they have “listened.” But equally as easy, if all you do is text, is for your own mind to fabricate a picture of what their listening actually looks like. Now, is it possible he sits in a bean bag clutching a mug of tea in one hand and an iPhone full of only your captivating messages in the other? Sure. But if that’s the case, you probably won’t stay pen pals for months on end. Words are important, but the colors of true character shine brightest when backed by actions.
#9 Remember texting is just a tool
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against texting. In fact, I probably enjoy a decent bantering text thread more than the average person. Texting can be logistically useful, help people maintain long-distance relationships, and it provides a realistic way to connect with friends or family amidst work week busyness or travel. However, texting should never make or break our relationships; it should act as a tool to magnify what we already have.
And some stories, I believe, are best saved for in person. The courageously shared riches of a human heart are too valuable to be held inside a 2 mm pixelated static smile, a short line, or a fleeting moment of attention. In person we laugh, we cry, we cringe, and turn red, or get surprised, and stumble over our words as our voices crack, and we try again to say what we mean. We can’t rehearse and edit our responses, which admittedly can feel quite scary. But life happens in real time, live right now as we speak. So never flee the awkward at the expense of the real. It’s the collective experience, even in the mess, that makes life beautiful.