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Sunday, 27 September 2015

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Think before you text

Here's why you shouldn't text your argument:

If there's one thing I've learnt from the numerous text wars I've engaged in it's that you should always argue and apologise in person.

Texting is designed for small, simple exchanges that require little emotional input or tricky communicative components, so attempting to have a heated discussion simply will not work. Even if you have to sit on your hands or have your phone taken away from you, you should always avoid creating or engaging in text arguments! Here's why:

*Texting lacks nonverbal cues

According to a study conducted by the author of Silent Messages Dr. Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of how we communicate is verbal. This means that a massive 93% of communication is nonverbal, be it facial expressions, vocal elements, gestures or one of the many other forms of body language we use in face-to-face conversation.


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When we argue via text messages or social media we are not equipped with all the tools we require to engage in valid, constructive, uninterruptable discussion. Plus, no matter how much you attempt to explain how you feel, complex emotions can rarely be conveyed genuinely or with impact through a screen. This is why texting can often lead to misunderstanding and will repeatedly make the situation a lot worse than it was.

*Texting is a lower form of communication

When it comes to conflict, texting is just one step up from simply ignoring a conversation and disappearing off the face of the Earth.

A study conducted by Brigham Young University found that the frequency and topics of texts you share with a significant other could actually determine the quality of your relationship. After questioning 300 participants, all of whom where in committed relationships, researchers asserted that most couples either use texting for 'relationship maintenance' or to argue. They found that men who texted their partners often also thought their relationships were of lower quality. Jonathan Sandberg, one the studies' authors, suggests that this may be because texting is less significant and lacks more information than face-to-face communication.

"Reaction to disappointment and reality testing occur more quickly face to face," Sandberg says. "There is a narrowness with texting, and you don't get to see the breadth of a person that you need to see."

*You're missing out on meaningful exchanges

If you are afraid of conflict then texting may seem like the perfect solution to dealing with difficult subjects. It's easy to feel less vulnerable, even safe, when there is physical distance between you and your recipient but this also means there is a lack of sincerity and compassion that would be present in real life exchanges. Chances are you or your recipient is also not paying complete attention to the discussion, rendering it even more pointless.

Shunning face-to-face conversation and opting to hide behind your phone or computer like a keyboard warrior is a tactic psychologists refer to as 'avoidance'. Instead of dealing with the problem constructively or learning how to beneficially navigate conflict, you're probably making it worse by evading any meaningful, in-person contact.

*There is never a happy ending

When we can instantly send anything and everything that comes to mind we begin to lose touch with social norms and forget consequences. Particularly for those who feel powerless in their relationships, texting can feel like the ultimate easy solution they can use to assert themselves.

YourTango specialist Julia Spira is adamant that she has never seen a text-based argument end well. "When the anger brews and escalates, usually a long-winded text message won't resolve relationship conflicts," she says. "This reactionary behaviour puts you in a digital war-zone."

Text wars almost inevitably devolve into displays of disrespect and crossing boundaries. It becomes a game of who can make their point the clearest and who can make the most impact, which often involves being needy, tedious, rude or nasty. If worst comes to worst and the text war results in bitter, unresolved feelings its possible that your messages will be shared with others.

*What are the alternatives?

To avoid allowing your thoughts, ego or fingers get the better of you, you must simply ground yourself outside of the digital communication world. When you feel that a discussion is necessary or you have been sent a argumentative text message ensure you are the bigger person by making that difficult phone call or schedule a meeting.

If your recipient doesn't respond then it's clear that they are only willing to argue on their terms and do not actually have resolution in mind. Or they're just a total wimp who's too cowardly to say what they mean to your face, in which case who needs them?

(Siobhan Harmer is a video game, coffee and travel lover from England. Although she is the human equivalent of a sloth Siobhan sometimes writes things, most of which you can find on her blog There You Are Sibby.)

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