Text Fight! Why no one wins an SMS smackdown



Text Fight! Why no one wins an SMS smackdown

“Any problem, big or small, always starts with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.” – Emma Thompson

You’re angry with your partner and want to reach for your mobile. Don’t! It can do greater harm than you realize. When your partner does something annoying, such as cancelling dinner plans 20 minutes before you’re supposed to meet, it’s natural you’ll want to call her out on it. So you should send her a quick text message explaining why you didn’t like that, right? Actually, no.

If your ultimate goal is to keep your relationship in a good place, you’re better off stifling that urge. Texted words come through in a vacuum. You have no idea how the other person is reacting, and before you know it that message snowballs into a text war. That means you standing still in the middle of a street/store/party sending and receiving the kind of texts that can and will be used against you in countless future, love-killing fights.


The communication handicap that comes with texting is even bigger than you might imagine. You’re getting three times less information texting than in a face-to-face conversation. You can’t see facial expressions, hear tone of voice, or watch body language. As a result, communicating can get really messy – and mean. After all, it’s a lot easier to go below the belt when you don’t have to witness your girlfriend’s gutted response. And it’s also harder to tell if you’re about to cross that line in the first place.

When you’re in the same room, you can see her physically bracing for what you’re going to say, and that clues you in that you’re about to go too far. But you don’t have that kind of a built-in safeguard with your smartphone. And after you go there, even a well-timed “Damn you, autocorrect!” won’t make her forget.

Lost in translation

To complicate the situation, the way your brain processes text messages (when both writing and receiving them) escalates an argument exponentially. When you text, you’re activating the more logical part of your brain; when you speak, you’re using more emotional circuits. So even when you’re writing a text that’s intended to be loving or remorseful, it’s naturally going to come across a bit cold and detached when she sees it in type. On top of that, our brains are wired to read only a part of a message, not the whole thing, which causes us to jump to conclusions.

It goes back to how we learnt to read as kids. Your brain automatically groups words together so you can expect what the next word will be. So instead of carefully scanning the message, your eyes dart to a few key words, and your mind fills in the rest. And even if you do read every word, you can still interpret a text countless ways, causing a perfect storm of miscommunication.

Get to the make-up sext

So how do you keep things from getting out of hand? Go ahead and send your partner a text when you’re miffed, but make sure it says only this: “Hey, when can I see you?” Don’t hint at what’s making you angry – doing so will only start the snowball rolling. This way, you’re just letting her know that you want to connect in person.

If you’ve already exchanged a few hatred lines, delete the conversation. Otherwise, it’s too tempting to eyeball the texts again and again in the future, or dredge them up as ‘evidence’ when you’re talking things through (which will only fan the flame). Deleting the convo from your phone won’t completely delete it from your memory, but it will make it easier to move on.

Have a beautiful week,

Gabrielle Moore

P.S. You’ve been hate-texting so much you suddenly realize you’ve just leveled up on Angry Birds? Put the phone down now!

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