I began writing this with the intent ionof heralding the virtues of taking over texting. That is until I stumbled on an article in Inc. Magazine that made me re-think my position (kind of). On a daily basis, I see the havoc that results from misconstrued text messages - ruined friendships & unnecessarily long arguments that could be quickly resolved with a five minute voice conversation.
In full disclosure, I’m an introvert who much prefers text over talking in situations that I anticipate will be awkward or contentious. My teenage clients have shown me, too, that (treatment appropriate) texting can strengthen the therapeutic relationship. Ultimately, though, I believe that talking trumps texting to discuss sensitive topics. The sterile words on a screen too easily take on the projected emotions of the reader, potentially transforming a well-intended message into a spark that ignites an unnecessary conflict at best and a destroyed relationship at worst. Perhaps, I am a reflection of my 1990s counselor training. The extent of text messaging in those days was calling someone’s pager and entering my assigned code.
Jayson Demers, in his article "Communication in 2015: Text, Voice, Video or In-Person?" outlined advantages and disadvantages of text and voice communication. Check out this excerpt from Jayson’s article:
- It forces us to be concise. In texts and emails, there's no room for small talk or pleasantries, so your message gets right to the point.
- Your message is on the record. There's room for misinterpretation, but the original message can't be questioned--it's searchable, and available for reference by all parties involved.
- You can be precise. Writing things down forces us to think carefully about what it is we want to say. In many cases, that makes us more likely to be specific and write in detail.
- You can be organized. Text messages are somewhat more limiting, but in emails, it's easy to organize your message in a way that visually makes sense.
- Text carries no tone. Aside from emoticons, which are usually seen as unprofessional, there's no way to infuse subtext into your message. Any tone of voice or body language is instantly lost.
- Text can be misinterpreted. While it's also possible for vocal interaction to be misheard or misinterpreted, text is not a foolproof means of communication. One spelling error or one skip-over could ruin the effect your message is intended to have.
- It's impersonal. Some messages require compassion and sympathy in their delivery, and text simply doesn't have the same effect as a face-to-face meeting.
- There's no back-and-forth. In some cases this can be advantageous, but with text, there's no opportunity to open a group discussion. There is only a punctuated series of one-to-one responses.
- Text is fast and precise, and it holds people accountable to their messages, but it's also impersonal and subject to interpretation. It's an excellent choice of medium, but only when your message is better served by being on the record than it is by being conveyed with emotion.
- It doesn't require much attention. Unlike text messages, which require a manual user input, or in-person meetings, which require full focus, phone calls give you more freedom.
- You can express inflection without worrying about body language. Voice carries tone much better than text messages, allowing you to inject humor or sympathy into your words without having to pay attention to your body language.
- Several people can connect simultaneously and remotely. Using conference calls, several people from all around the world can speak together at once.
- People speak over each other. With speech delays and few body cues, it's easy for people to clamor over each other, especially while on a conference line.
- Phone calls are great for connecting several remote people at once, but the inefficiency of communication often makes in-person meetings or text messages better options.
What do you prefer - texting or talking? Let me hear from you.
Until next time,
Happy talking…or texting!