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A texting code of conduct

I'm all about efficiency in conversation.  Time is money, but time is also solitude, peace, productivity, etc.  So I'll cut to the chase.  I want to help you to be more effective with your questions. I find the seemingly aimless questioning SO frustrating via text message! Come on, please keep up! It's not that I'm not interesting in talking to you, it's that we are lingering too long on fluffy stuff.  If we resolve this quickly we can all go back to what we were doing before this interaction started, allowing us to be more present in our lives.  and saving my aching hands from the implicate obligation to respond.

 We've been fascinated with the telephone since it's invention... and what a trip we've been on ever since!

We've been fascinated with the telephone since it's invention... and what a trip we've been on ever since!

 

What are the rules to texting? Has is been around long enough that we can agree to some common practices? please let the answer be yesss....

Rule #1. Opening the conversation with something specific is a must. Open-ended questions read like a lot of work to me. There is enough small talk in our daily work interactions that there is no place for it in texting. 

ex. Common question "What are you up to this weekend?"

My internal response @#&*%!  Do you seriously want my whole itinerary for the weekend?!? Because I literally write one out most of the time, but I doubt that's what you're looking for.

How about: "Hey do you have time this weekend to hang out?"

I mean, maybe you actually do want to know what I'm doing, but really?!? I know that sounds self-important, but I have a limited social capacity and I don't want to spend time "making conversation" via text. If you want to know, I'm pretty active on my social media showing my hobbies and work. So what is it that you would precisely like to know? Instead of exchanging niceties in the beginning just ask the question you want answered.. Do I sound like a raving lunatic?!? Perhaps, I have been known to go on the occasional rant...

I just don't see the benefit in not cutting to the chase. Unless it's some form of flirting and both parties are enjoying themselves, then lets move on! So stop asking "how it's going" over text. If you really give a care to find out how someone is doing pick up your texting machine, put it to your ear, and wait to hear the human voice on the other side of the line.

 

Rule #2. Don't Ghost. Just say goodbye, or goodnight. No need to explain, for the most part you don't owe anyone that, but unless the conversation was of the briefest nature it's good form to say goodbye.  This is especially true with technology that allows the sender to see when you've read their message.  I think this technology is corrosive to mental health for MANY reasons, but that's another days rant.  So be kind, announce your exit just as you would if you were having that conversation in person.
Rule #3. Anything serious can and should wait to until you are having an in-person conversation.  Texting to set a time for this to happen is totally acceptable, but even then watch your word choicesDon't pick fights. It's a stupid waste of time.  In order to properly resolve an issue it's usually necessary to have every advantage.  Seeing each other's body language is a huge advantage when navigating contentious conversations. Save it.  

For the more manipulative among you: if you think about it... when you fight through text you're giving the other person documentation of how ridiculous you are.  Instead you should entrust that exclusively to memory, which is malleable.

There is an undeniable tendency for us (humans) to interpret tone as negative in a text message when in doubt.

We've all been guilty of implying tone when receiving a message from someone.  When you receive a message do yourself a favor and take a moment to observe the individual words. Are they actually negative?  Or are you just colouring them that way when you read it?  It's far more likely the latter, and this is where you end up getting your panties in a knot.  Texting is such an impulsive/reactive form of communication that we fire off a response without even properly reading the message.  I get this, sometimes we don't have time, with everything else going on.  That bring me to the next rule:

Rule # 4.  You are under NO obligation to respond immediately.  If you don't have time to respond to it, then you probably shouldn't read it either.  Our primitive brain reacts to the dopamine surge when we see a notification, imploring us to check it immediately. While we're driving, walking in a crowd, in the middle of a workout.... you name it.  Not only is this dangerous, rude or annoying, there's no way that you'll remember to go back once prompt is gone.  We're all guilty of it and unless you have a deliberate daily practice of checking over your messages before bed then there is a chance of missing something important.

There will always be people who have unrealistic expectations of you. I suggest being especially conscious of your consistency in responding to these people.  Make them wait, defend your personal time with vigilance.  They will learn to adjust their expectations, or go insane, but that's not your problem.

Rule #5. Use emoticons.  Ugh, I hate to have to tell people to do this, but it has made a big difference in the way my messages have been received.  Due to the fact that I tend to be a more direct communicator, it can come off a little harsh at times when the reader doesn't have my face for reference.  Alternately, when you're looking for the appropriate smiley face or fruit it forces you to take a little more time, reducing impulsive reactions that lead to misunderstandings.

I am at the point now where I gleefully refuse to accept any implicate "tone" in messages.  Subtle word choices are a big indicator. I usually know when someone is being passive aggressive, but it's just easier to take it at face value and move on.  How many minute, hours, or days can be spent worrying about what is not being said?  If they don't have the courage or skill to properly convey their issue then it's time to move on. I spend enough time as a service provider reading between the lines, trying to find out what my clients want even when it's not said. I just can't spend the energy doing it in these minute interactions.

The little envelope that pops up in the top left corner of our screen is an ironic symbol, a reminder of the days gone when communication afforded no urgency. Please slow down and text responsibly.

 

 

Amy Krahn1 Comment