Upon entering the store I say, “Wow, look at that flower! It is crazy!” My oldest daughter immediately replies, “Yeah, I should probably buy it for you because it matches your personality.” I laugh. Upon exiting the store my second youngest daughter asks, “Where does the water go when you flush the toilet?” I laugh. Then, I think. What if either of those statements had been a text?
How do we decide when to text and when to call? Do we even consider whether a “message” is worthy of a phone call anymore?
I propose that much of what we are sending through cyberspace and data world would be best communicated with a simple old-fashioned dial up delivery. Being a more comfortable writer than speaker even among those I am closest to, I am as guilty as the next guy in this conundrum. Therefore, I wanted to examine the subject and offer a few things to consider when we have got something we need to say.
1. What is our relationship?
Consider my daughters’ initial statements. Here’s how I take these statements if they are coming as a text depending upon who it is from:
My best friend knows how crazy I am.
My daughter has a cute sense of humor.
My husband better be joking.
My mother-in-law literally thinks I’m nuts.
That co-worker doesn’t even know me.
Is my best friend having a midlife crisis? (Send chocolate)
Did my daughter flush a toy? (Prepare to enter trenches)
Is my husband thinking about remodeling? (Browse home decor)
Why is my mother-in-law quizzing me? (Ask Siri and send correct reply)
Is that co-worker going to try and pin a dirty job on me? (Inquire why she’s asking)
Clearly, our relationship matters when it comes to how we interpret what is being sent via text message. Always take into consideration, firstly, who you are about to communicate with. This is the first step in being wise about when to call versus when to text. It matters whether we are close friends, just acquaintances, family, or someone with whom there is already tension or a history of miscommunication or misunderstanding.
2. Is either the subject or the relationship (or both) stressful?
A good rule of thumb when deciding whether to text or call is how you feel about what you need to communicate. If you feel awkward about calling, you probably should. If it is a situation riddled with tension or misunderstanding already, do not add fuel to the fire by using the means of communication that is most easily misunderstood.
3. How important is the information?
I am picturing men proposing via text here. Come on. If what you have to say has any amount of depth, you need to pick up the telephone and use your voice. Texting matters of importance makes them less important and much more impersonal. If you have five minutes to text two paragraphs, you have five minutes to use some common decency and respect and call that person.
4. Would you want to receive the information you are texting to someone else in a text message?
Most rules of etiquette can be traced back to the standard of the good old golden rule. Do they even teach this to kids anymore? Do unto others as you would have done to you. Do not drop bombs on people via text message. Call them when the details involve depth.
5. Do you want the relationship to grow?
In order to become closer to someone, at some point, you will have to either speak audibly or converse in person. Show me a text-only relationship and I will show you a shallow, immature relationship. If there is to be maturity, there must be more than one mode of communication. Texting is linear. Talking is fluid. With texting nuances are nuisances that no one understands. With talking nuances are natural.
I would not want to be told my personality type is crazy in a text unless it was from a very few select persons. I would be scared if I were so randomly asked a question about toilet water in a text. I laughed at both in person. So from one I would rather write it out and let it land without having to converse about it writer to another, let’s learn to evaluate the importance of what we want to say, to whom we want to say it, and whether it is really wise to write it rather than rap it out of our windpipes.