Communication is complicated at best. There are important elements of human connection that allow us to understand each other in a conversation. According to Psychology Today,
“The necessary pieces [of communication between two people] are a sender, a receiver, and a message…The two basic ways of coding messages are putting it in some kind of language (speech or writing) and/or nonverbally communicating it (body language, tone [of voice], etc). The receiver then interprets (decodes) the words and nonverbals, hoping to arrive at an understanding of what the sender really means.”*
This means that what we say is never what is heard.
Next Came the Text
We live in a world where texting is the main form of communication. We text to say hi, we text to ask our partners to bring home dinner, we text to request help with the kids, we text entire conversations about making major decisions in our lives.
My question is, just because we can, should we?
Don’t get me wrong – I think texting is the best thing since Devil Dogs! (I’m talking about the tasty cream filled devil food cake treat by Drake’s Cakes, not the WWI military nickname.) I have always hated talking on the phone. It’s awkward. I can’t see the person’s facial expressions to know how they are reacting to what I’m’ saying, or the small twitch they make when they’re about to say something, so I know to pause and let them speak. I can’t see the wandering gaze telling me it’s time to end the conversation…
Then comes texting! No more mistakenly talking over each other or awkward pauses! And how luxurious to be able to text in the middle of a busy day to just ask – hey, you free tonight? allowing your friends to respond at their convenience.
However, there are also major setbacks.
Misinterpretation Comes Easy
“All words are really just symbols that represent certain things, and every person can have a slightly different understanding even at the individual word level.”*
When you type that text, you hear what you’re saying the way you would say it out loud if the intended recipient were standing in front of you. The recipient, NOT standing in front of you, and only with disembodied words to interpret, will hear your text based on their own understanding of your relationship, the voices they hear in their own head based on their own experiences in the world, and their own current mood. Even a seemingly benign thumbs up emoji can cause great consternation for the receiver and misunderstanding between both parties.
Texting in today’s epoch very often replaces face-to-face and phone conversations altogether. However amazing for making plans and just keeping in touch, it can be detrimental to a relationship. Speaking with someone in person about topics of great importance including (and especially) life-altering decisions, is always ideal.
Yes, I Have an Example…
Key and Peele do a very dramatic (and, in my opinion, vert accurate) skit demonstrating the very different ways in which we can interpret what is being communicated without the important elements of human connection. I leave you with this skit to enhance my thoughts on this topic: