If you are anything like me, you’re always a bit taken aback when the phone rings. Why not send a text message? I catch myself thinking. It’s so much quicker, more efficient, and – most of all – it lacks the awkwardness inherent to telephone conversations (at least that’s how I feel about them).
While I always prefer a text message, I must admit that in many ways it’s an inferior form of communication. The text message is pure and simple text, completely devoid of the individual personality characteristics each of us brings to our communication styles in person or on the phone.
It’s not a very human way of communicating.
But the text message is clearly not going anywhere. Life moves faster and faster every year, and text message communication can actually keep up with the pace of the world. So let’s face facts and find ways to make SMS work with us rather than against us.
10 Text Message Tips to Make the World a Bit More Human
1. Don’t place response time windows on a text message.
Fact is, we’re busier today than we’ve ever been in history. While we all have those friends whose response time is almost always immediate, there are others who take longer to respond. It’s not because they’re ignoring you, it’s just because they’re busy or distracted.
That said, this is also the era of instant everything. I once dated someone who would consistently take between 4 and 6 hours to respond – not because they were busy, but because they had a passive aggressive relationship with telephone communication and would send me a message then turn their phone off and place it in a drawer. #Issues #ByeFelicia #ByeFelipe
But at the same time, make the choice not to expect a response from a text message within a certain time window and your life will be that much easier.
2. Don’t say BIG things via text message.
This depends, of course, on how well you know the person. If you’re just getting to know someone – say, in a romantic way – I’d suggest saving the BIG reveals for a face-to-face conversation, or a telephone convo if you must. There are simply too many ways a text message can be misread when the topic of discussion is heavier than usual.
3. Try not to cancel plans via text message.
As a serial plan canceller, I’m guilty of this 100%. Sometimes it’s not a huge deal to send a plan cancellation by text message, but use your judgment. If someone has extended a thoughtful invitation to a big event or a party that you simply cannot make (e.g., because your cat is sleeping on your lap and you can’t get up) try to give them a call to let them know.
4. If there’s something you’re struggling to communicate over text message, it’s a sign that you should just call or say it in person.
And I don’t necessarily mean heavy topics, I’m also referring to things that require a bit of explanation – like complicated directions, what you feel like eating for dinner, or whether or not you think your cat is secretly plotting to kill you in your sleep.
If you’re struggling to put something into words in a text message, interpret this struggle as a sign that you should just call or wait to chat in person.
5. If you’re running late, send a quick text message.
In the old days we used to make plans and stick to them because if we didn’t there would be no way to let the person know. But now with instant messaging, we all fly a bit more by the seat of our pants – which also means that there’s absolutely no reason you can’t send a quick text to say that you’re running behind.
6. Don’t read too much into a text message.
Just don’t. If there’s something in a message you’re confused about, ask for clarity in person or over the phone – and do so before you’ve made assumptions or read between the lines (probably incorrectly). Keep in mind that there is an element of non-reality about a text message – saying something over text is less real to both the person saying it and the person reading it.
The moment something is getting lost in translation, put a stop to the text message convo and get clarity in the real world. You will save yourself a whole lot of Avril Lavigne angst.
7. Accept that sometimes a text message gets lost along the way.
This one weekend I texted a few people and no one responded. I felt like a complete loser and proceeded to sit on my couch alone for the night, wondering how I’d gotten to this place of having NO FRIENDS. Then, a few days later, I heard that the network had been down on that particular night, and no one actually received the messages I sent.
I felt like an even bigger loser than before.
Sometimes a text message gets lost, and other times people read them during a particularly busy moment in their day and completely forget to respond. Unless you speak directly to a person, you can’t know if the carrier pigeon actually delivered the message directly to their hand.
8. Use emoticons.
During telephone conversations, I’m notorious for sounding bored, uninterested, and annoyed. I have, what you might call, a resting bitch voice over the phone. Just as I try to be mindful of how I come across over the phone, I also try to be mindful that my texts need to convey some sort of affectivity and emotion.
Emoticons might seem childish, but in fact they are very useful. I typically stick to the smiley face :-), the big smiley face :-D, or the winky smiley face ;-).
9. Sign off nicely.
If you’re completing a text message conversation, try to make the convo sign-off a bit more like you would if you were speaking over the phone. Signing off with “Sure,” “Ok,” or (my least favourite) “K” is completely devoid of emotion or well-wishing. Add a simple “Sounds good!” or a “Great, I’m looking forward to it ☺” to give your sign-off a bit more humanity.
10. Make ringer off your phone’s default – only turn it on when you’re expecting an important call or message.
On behalf of introverts everywhere, please make your phone sounds silent unless absolutely necessary. The number of notifications I get all day would mean that my phone chimes at least once every 15 minutes, and I value silence too much to allow my phone that much freedom to interrupt it.
What’s worse, your phone ringer has the ability to trump actual face-to-face communication with real live people.
Bonus: Use GIFs.
GIFs are a fun way to impart meaning to your text message conversations. Say it with a GIF.
Here’s a few examples from one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of our time, Showgirls*.
Your friend: How’d your first day at the new job go?
You: Nailed it.
Your mom: Why haven’t you met someone nice yet?
You: Because no one’s good enough.
Your significant other: Did you get the flowers I had delivered?
You: Yes! Current mood:
Your passive aggressive friend: Why don’t you smile more often?
Your gym buddy: Going to Body Attack tomorrow morning?
You: Can’t deal anymore.
Happy texting , everyone!