"Can you read this text and tell me WTF it means?" a friend asks, handing me her phone. After scrolling through the conversation, I'll offer a few possible interpretations, along with the obligatory "but don't read into it too much!" This scenario happens almost weekly, and as much as I'd much rather have face-to-face communication than a string of abbreviations and emoji with someone I'm dating, I've also been the one looking for translations of my text conversations. But it's not just women or singles who deal with text message misinterpretations, confusion, stress, and assumptions, plenty of people in relationships get caught up in decoding text messages, or worse, engage in text fights.
"This is one of the biggest relationship pitfalls that I hear about in my practice," Laura L. Ryan, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Imago Therapist in Austin, Texas tells Bustle."The way I explain it to couples is that most intimate to least intimate communication ranks like this: 1) Face-to-face conversation, 2) FaceTime, 3) Written letter, 4) Email, 5) Instant message or text."
But texting is just so convenient, right? "Unfortunately, text has become the primary form of communication in modern relationships because of the convenience and the ability to text while doing other things," says Ryan. So what's the best method of communication when you're not with someone in person? It may feel old-school (but hey, aren't the '90s back anyway?), or terrifying (if you're not used to it), but your best bet for communicating effectively and building a connection with your crush or partner may be to just pick up the phone and call them.
That's why Bustle is partnering with Blogologues' No Text Weekend, a challenge to not text from September 23-25. There will be event series featuring comedy, workshops, and classes all to help you connect better with others. And it's not just about changing how you communicate with your significant other, the weekend encourages you to bring your voice back to conversations with your friends, family, and co-workers, too.
Interested in improving your conversations ASAP? I talked a bunch of dating and relationship experts about why talking on the phone versus texting can benefit your love life, whether you've been dating someone for three days or 300:
1. Hearing Someone's Voice Helps You Decode Messages
"When you call somebody, you not only have words but you also have tone and pacing to help you decode the message," Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-laws into Family tells Bustle. With texting, you only have words and a permanent record is left. Besides, between spellcheck and Siri, there is lots of room for strange and unusual mistakes."
"Calling, or face-to-face communication, is better than texting because there are nonverbal cues that are lost in texting," Carrie Sharpe, Communication Consultant and Speaker, who helps people strengthen their relationships by improving their communication skills, tells Bustle. "Seeing facial expressions and body language helps us understand the speaker's motivations and intentions. These nonverbal cues help signal the true meaning behind the words spoken. Voice inflection also helps us understand the true message. Written words, in the form of texting or emails, can be easily misunderstood. These misunderstandings can cause rifts in relationships. Because we cannot see or hear the person speaking, much of the message's meaning can be lost."
2. Conflicts Are More Hostile Via Text
"Eighty percent of human communication is nonverbal and during texting, because we cannot see the other person's face, hear their tone of voice or observe their physical posture and mannerisms, the information transmission quickly breaks down," Ryan says. "Messages feel more accusatory, conflict gets more hostile, and anger escalates quickly. If you have a conflict that you would like to discuss, I would strongly suggest doing it in person. If you see a conflict coming during a text conversation, immediately end the text and either call or meet up so that you can get things resolved."
"I just received two questions from readers on my AskApril.com free relationship advice forum, that I answered this morning. Both had to do with texting triggering a relationship break up. In one case a young man got into a text war with his girlfriend who was away for the weekend with her girlfriends, and didn’t stay in touch with him, the way he did with her when he was the one who was out of town," April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert tells Bustle. "The text war escalated and triggered a breakup. He wrote me asking for clarification on what happened. I explained that texting is super easy, super fast, and the quickest way to escalate drama. Another reader on my forum initiated “the talk” about the status of an eight-month relationship with her boyfriend, via text. That text conversation escalated into a breakup. She wrote asking if it was over, wanting to get him back. In both these cases, calling and talking to each other in real time, or better, talking in person, is much better than texting and these two relationships might not have failed if they hadn’t relied on reactive texting to communicate."
3. Phone Calls Can Strengthen Your Connection In New Relationships
"Especially in new relationships, it is essential that you maximize the opportunities to not only build that intimacy, but also to avoid any situations that might prohibit it," Tyler Turk, CEO of Crated With Love, a monthly subscription box for date night, tells Bustle. "Although texting is quicker and more convenient, it may create a stale and monotone dialect between partners. Instead of learning how your significant other responds emotionally to certain comments or questions, you are left knowing what they are saying and missing how they feel. We tend to read comments how we would say them which means your presumed context may be completely different from what they really mean. This leads to more misunderstandings and more time trying to figure out what their true reaction is.
Talking on the phone however, can strengthen your connection and build intimacy. Hearing your partner's reaction, inflection, and tone of their voice will help you better understand them emotionally and can only heighten your communication skills with that person. At the end of the day, a call is just more special. Taking the time to physically talk with significant other shows them that you care and are invested in the relationship. There is an old-school charm to talking on the phone and staying up until the early morning conversing with your partner can create the best moments in a young relationship."
4. You Get To Know Someone's Communication Style On The Phone
"The overwhelming impact of texting on new romance has been primarily negative, particularly when it comes to navigating the very beginning stages of dating someone new," Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona tells Bustle. "Texting and other electronic communication very often results in misunderstandings, miscommunications, misinterpretations, erroneous assumptions, rash decisions, and other negative complications and obstacles in new relationships. We lose all of the very important information about a person's emotions that are communicated through things like tone of voice, and the more lengthy and complete style of communicating we use when speaking with someone. ... So much can be gained early on in a relationship by just speaking to someone on the phone rather than excessive texting, and many unnecessary problems can be minimized or completely avoided."
5. The Human Quality To Communication Is Lost Over Text
"I have spent countless hours parsing through misinterpreted text messages between couples," Michel Horvat, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in couple's therapy, tells Bustle. "All of the nuance, and specifics of prosody, intonation, emotion, emphasis on a certain part of a sentence is lost when dwindled down to a text. The closest that we can come to conveying emotion or intent is with emojis and exclamation points. Otherwise all of that human quality to communication is lost. In that loss is where assumption and misinterpretation sprouts... It contributes to de-humanizing our connection and leaves room for assumptions and inaccurate intent. The closer we are to face-to-face communication, the less apt we are to misinterpret that communication."
6. Texting Is Too Impersonal
"Texting is impersonal, there is a limit to the real connection you can have with someone but the frequency that many people use texting can cause a false sense of closeness," Nicole Richardson, Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "This is especially true in new or long-distance relationships. To safely use texting, it is be used in conjunction with phone calls (video calls like Skype and FaceTime are even better) and actually give your full attention to the texts you read and send."
7. To Truly Get To Know Someone, You Need To Speak To Them
"Delays between text messages can change the meaning and create friction," Lori Salkin, Matchmaker and Dating Coach, tells Bustle. "It can also cause people to miss important cues such as when they need to react for others in the relationship (family members, friends etc). Texting doesn't allow you to hear the other person's reaction in the same way calling does. (Sorry, there are just not enough emoji's in existence to replace phone calls). When things are tense or just plain important, hearing how fast or loud or quiet or sweet or sarcastic or mad someone sounds is very important to getting to know a person and communicating in a relationship.
To truly to get to know someone, you need to speak to them and know them. You could date someone for months but if you only text you may still never fully know the person because you never hear them between seeing them. People are not just who they are when they are present on a date. They are who they are when you catch them on the phone for a minute between busy work calls, or when they're visiting their grandmother or at home with their siblings or walking between things."
8. A Lot Gets Lost In Translation With Texting
"Texting can be a lot of fun, however there is so much that can get lost in translation," Dr .Nikki Goldstein, Sexologist and Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. "Communication can be largely non-verbal and even though we might not be able to see the other person on the phone, hearing different tones in their voice can help us place whether something is said in a fun and playful manner or serious and annoyed. This can really change the meaning of what it being said... If you are in a bit of a low mood, the words that you receive via text might be misinterpreted and your response or even lack of response back is reacting to something that isn't there, setting a reaction of negativity in return. If it's early dating days then texting can be romantic, however if too much texting goes on and not enough talking, nerves might kick and someone could be hiding behind their phone out of fear, shyness or an inability to communicate in the flesh."
9. Response Rate Expectations Don't Exist On The Phone
"Texting can harm relationships because of one partner’s expectation of the response rate," Anita A. Chlipala, Dating and Relationship Expert and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist tells Bustle. "My clients have reported hurt feelings because their partners did not respond to a text, but they could see their social media posts. So they wonder, 'If you had time to post on social media, why are you not responding to my text? He obviously doesn’t care.' This kind of expectation inevitably leads to hurt. Both partners have to have realistic expectations because many variables can lead to this kind of situation (such as the partner was waiting to call instead of text a response!)"
10. We Pay More Attention When We're Talking On The Phone
"Communication is clearer and more efficient on a telephone call than when texting," Grant H. Brenner M.D, Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, and Co-author of Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships To Hide From Intimacy, tells Bustle. "Miscommunication is less likely when speaking than with text because speech is faster and so you can say more in the same amount of time. People tend to abbreviate with text, as well, leading to confusion. People tend to fill in the blanks in general, and this is more the case with text — if something is vague or confusing, rather than noticing and asking for clarification, people are more likely to assume what the other person meant. Usually assuming the worst if it is about an emotional issue, or if it is about something concrete like directions to dinner, assuming they know what was meant...Speaking on the phone, we pay more attention and can have rapid exchanges when something doesn't make sense, and that helps us to stay on the same page whether it is planning where to meet up later, or discussing an emotionally-charged topic."
11. We're Less Likely To Take Things Out Of Context On The Phone
"The *biggest* reason calling is better than texting is that you can decipher tone of voice in calling,"Kali Rogers, Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching. "The inflection of our voice communicates so much more than the words we are saying — so speaking on the phone or in person exchanges much more communication than email or text. Texting therefore can be risky, especially in new relationships, due to the vulnerability of taking things out of context. We can project our own experiences, memories, mood, assumptions, and more onto others' tone (or lack thereof) and take a harmless text message completely out of context. Calling will always be the healthier and more efficient form of communication, but it's best to utilize text messaging after you thoroughly get to know someone."
"Often, in text, we lose the context of the conversation," Alexis Nicole White, Author and Relationship Expert tells Bustle. "For example: you are missing the tone, rate, and pitch of the voice which can indicate the severity of the message. You cannot hear if the person is frustrated, irritated or being silly and/or sarcastic. Although we have emojis to help convey the context of the message, it is always better to hear the voice of the person that we are communicating with in order to effectively understand the message being sent."
12. We're More Honest Over The Phone
"Communicating through a call is more authentic than is texting," Dr. Jason Whiting, researcher of deception and conflict in relationships, tells Bustle. "When emotions, tone, and pace are included in the conversation, people are more likely to be real and be honest. One study found that when people were trying to convince another person to buy something, they lied more often when communicating through texts compared to phone calls. It is easier to lie with the distance and slower reaction times of texts."
13. Calling Is More Intimate Than Texting
"Calling is a more intimate form of communication than texting,"Susan L. Edelman, Psychiatrist and Author of Be Your Own Brand Of Sexy , tells Bustle. "Email and texting, although common, will never be as personal as a telephone call, and that feels safe to people who are afraid to be vulnerable... A phone call isn't as intimate as a face-to-face conversation because you can't tell facial expressions. Even a video chat experience just isn't the same as being in the same room with someone.
When you're communicating by text, you can't detect facial expressions or tone of voice. Are they really angry, or just joking with you? As a result, when you're texting, it's much easier to misunderstand the other person's meaning. If you decide they're angry, you might react in an angry way, escalating the tension and the misunderstanding."
14. You Can Express Nuance On The Phone
"I believe calling is better than texting because people can express nuance through their voices much better than reading a flat message," Life Coach Nina Rubin, who works with Millennials on career and dating issues, tells Bustle. "Miscommunication occurs very frequently via text, and sarcasm is misunderstood."
15. You Can Be As Clear As Possible Over The Phone
"Because we are often doing more than one thing at a time, while communicating with others, we are often unsure of what the conversation is entailing," says White. "When speaking over the phone, you can be as clear as possible and provide feedback during an engaging conversation."
16. You Build A More Positive Emotional Bond On The Phone
"Texting removes a lot of the emotion, and leaves a lot more room for misinterpretation," Shlomo Slatkin, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, and Founder of The Marriage Restoration Project with his wife Rivka, tells Bustle. "Many times people text in the heat of the moment, they'll write things that they would never have the courage to say on the phone or face to face, and they also might be preoccupied with something else, not giving the conversation their full attention. With a phone call, you can pick up on the intonation, there is a little less room for interpretation, and you can build a more positive, emotional bond.
Sometimes texting can be beneficial, to check in with the other person without calling and interrupting their day. You're less likely to catch them at a bad time when you text, because there is not the assumption that you must respond the minute you receive the text, whereas people tend to pick up the phone even if they are in the middle of something."
17. Phone Calls Are Better For Showing Interest In A New Relationship
"Calling is old school — and it’s romantic," Masini says. "When someone takes the time to call you they’re showing that they care, as are you when you do the same. Texting is done on the fly. Calling on the phone is deliberate and makes the other person — and the relationship — feel valuable in a way that texting doesn’t."
"Especially in the beginning of a relationship, it's important to understand and communicate as texting can confuse someone," Stef Safran, Matchmaking and Dating Expert in Chicago tells Bustle. "They might misconstrue the plans that you've made. They might think that you are not interested or busy because it's time consuming to list three choices of nights to get together. With regular phone and in person conversations there is a "greeting, reason to talk and an ending". When I have new couples that text, many times I have to "fix" the miscommunication that occurs.
Ultimately, I have seen dates that haven't happened because one person texted one choice of plans as opposed to recognizing that they needed to create a few options, not just one. If someone is late, texting doesn't show tone if they are sorry for being late, or if they are just lazy. No matter who I speak to, very few people complain about scheduling a date the old-fashioned way; using the phone. Hearing someone's voice is as important as being attracted to them in person (sight). Courting/dating is still something that requires someone to feel special; and the current text dating shows that it's not working to make more relationships, it just seems to hurt them from happening."
Want to participate in No Text Weekend? Take the pledge here.
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