Navigating texting with caution

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 00:00 |
Texting etiquette.

Following Covid-19 pandemic, digital communication has become part of our everyday business landscape, with chat and text messaging keeping everyone connected. However, a lot can be lost in translation.

Jasmine Wambui

Long time ago, people passed messages through various traditional forms, which were well understood by the folks.

Some examples of these forms were smoke signals, beating of drums, blowing of horns, among others.

Hardly did the villagers get it wrong as they were informed about what each message meant. 

Fast forward to 2020, most communication is done through text messaging on phones and on social media platforms.

Some people also prefer to handle this form of messaging officially through the use of emails.

This medium of communication has, however found many people on the receiving end of  libel -also known as criminal defamation- lawsuit. 

If a message is important, experts advise one to convey it face-to-face. This is because text messaging cannot accurately convey tone, emotion, gestures, body language, eye contact, facial expressions, which remove the real meaning of an important message.  

Ruined relationships

Sometimes what is said via text message can have a completely different meaning when said face-to-face.

“In the absence of facial expression, tone of voice, gesture or good old-fashioned “vibe,” we have very little to help us discern what the other person is trying to tell us.

Without these clarifying cues, we frequently “fill in the blanks” with our customary worries and assumptions,” says psychologist Caroline Mwangi.

Although it happens too many times, the worst way to break- up with anyone is via a text message.

According to dysfunctional relationship expert Dr Ramani Durvasula, it shows how cowardly and offensive one can be, therefore leaving one’s feeling uncared for.

“The sender may be indifferent to the emotions of others, or so fearful of emotions that they cannot face or manage them,” he says. 

“Several relationships all over the world have been ruined because a message sent via email or text message was misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Never expect to have a meaningful conversation or dispute resolution via text messaging,” he adds. 

According to the psychologist, more harm is done when couples fight through texting or chatting, because it leaves a lot of space for miscommunication to take place.

“It is always best to sit down with your partner and resolve issues. People are more loving to each other, and willing to compromise when physically present,” she says.

Gone are the days when parents would give their children just one look that will send them to the bedroom without a word. 

Today, it is not odd to find two people sitting in the same room communicating via text.

Sadly, emojis have replaced feelings and real emotions between two people and this questions the sincerity of many such relationships. 

Easy to lie 

According to Nancy Kabiru, founder and lead counsellor of Hisia Psychology Consultants,  texts messages give false hopes and expectations in a relationship.

“One has to be genuine because it’s easier for anyone to lie via text message than while having a face-to-face conversation with someone.

Often are the times when people quickly reply to messages without giving too much thought on what they are really saying and this becomes a problem in the long run,” explains Nancy. 

However, with Covid-19 pandemic and face-to-face interactions limited, texting is now a viable option for many.

For Mwangi, she advises people to explore video-calling instead of normal chatting.

“Video chatting has more positive results than a phone call, let alone an email.

Also in video chatting, one can read body languauge  while  communicating. “We tend to forget that body langauge plays a major part in our communication. 

Texting etiquette 

It is not just how you said something, but also your facial expressions and body posture.

Who knows what people are doing while texting? You might not want to know.

However, video-chatting leads to engagement. It ensures that one is “in the conversation,” she says.

And if you have to use text messages to communicate, here are a few etiquette tips to remember: Be short and precise, not everything should be said via text, consider your recipient, respond promptly and be patient while waiting for a response.

“As a sender, heed the standard, but nonetheless wise, counsel to count to 10 or (1,000) before hitting send on a hastily crafted reply.

Then, during this interval, ask yourself: Can I understand this message in another way?” Mwangi poses.

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