Texting and emailing are convenient, but using them to avoid confrontation can lead to communication problems within a relationship. Firing off e-mails is satisfying, allowing you to cross tasks off your to-do list at warp speed. But increasingly, women are turning to the keyboard for more than setting up meetings. Technology makes it easier to bring up thorny topics while avoiding confrontation. And in our busy world, typed-out messages are fast becoming a substitute for the meaningful conversations that keep people connected. So if everyone is doing it, does that make it OK?
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Not really. There are, in fact, several disadvantages of email and texts. "E-mail and texts have become safe havens for escape artists," says Susan Newman, Ph.D., social psychologist and 13-time author. "You can ignore messages, don't have to answer questions you don't like, and you never have to see how much you've hurt someone. We're missing the valuable lessons in-the-flesh talks can teach us." By exploring three women's digital dilemmas (we're sure they're not the only ones wrestling with technology!) Newman reveals why in matters of the heart, letting your fingers do the talking often leads to more harm than good. Follow her fail-proof strategies for healthier communication.
Example #1: Texting shortcuts can turn a friend into an frenemy.
After a friend moved to her town, Erica Taylor, 25, was doing all she could to help her pal get situated, letting her crash at her apartment and landing her an internship. But Erica got miffed when her friend ignored the air mattress set up for her, making the futon (a.k.a. living room couch) her bed instead. Erica's friendly text (complete with smiley face) requesting the futon mattress be returned to its frame triggered a series of snippy back-and-forth messages. Over the wires, anger escalated until Erica's friend typed that she'd be moving out and axing the internship. The two haven't talked since.
Essentially Erica used texting shortcuts to make a request of a friend. What’s wrong with texting shortcuts and leaving voice mail messages?
"Ultra-abbreviated texts offer few clues on the tone of a message or what a person is feeling as she's typing it," says Newman, "leading to confusion and misinterpretation." A few misread words can trigger knee-jerk-reaction replies that quickly get out of hand. Those emotionally-charged texts can be reread ad-infinitum, adding stinging permanence to hurtful jabs.
What to Do Instead:
The first time you get a text message that sounds snippy, resist the urge to respond in kind. Instead, pick up the phone, suggests Newman, and say, "We've been friends for so long. Clearly we're not seeing eye-to-eye. Let's talk about this."
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Go to page two for more how-to’s for healthy relationships.