Text Communication: The Next Frontier of Communication

Why are improv people writing about texting? Improv doesn’t happen over text.

I still remember a game we played in my off-Broadway troupe. We would take two phones from audience members. We had to carry on a scene and conversation, but we could only use the texts on the two phones to communicate.

It was one of the funniest games we played, and when the audience trusted us to have their phones, we had the best time.

It worked because texting IS interpersonal communication. A reminder, interpersonal communication refers to the exchange of information between two or more people. While sometimes my texts with my friends or husband are made up of emojis or exclamations – I think it’s safe to say text conversations are interpersonal communication, and the next thing we’re going to suck at.

Or maybe what we already suck at.

Hear me out: we’re terrible listeners. It’s funny, whenever we teach a workshop, people are stunned how much paying attention to active listening changes the whole game. The better you listen, the better your communication is.

So how does this apply to text?

Well, when we’re texting, the problem that often comes up is the same as not listening: we aren’t reading and processing all of the information. The same issues come up: agenda orientated thinking, distracted attention, lack of presence. And why would we be present when we’re texting? It’s usually not time-sensitive (hopefully not!) and usually fairly casual (we’ll dive in NOT texting for work soon) so we zip in and out of conversations.

Here are three quick ways to level up your texting interpersonal communication skills:

  • Pay Attention to Tone
    Check-in! How do you feel? If you’re just zipping off a “fine” or “ok” – be present with how you feel when you’re firing off that tepid response. Are you fine or ok, or are you just being dismissive?While it’s hard to land on tone for text messages, it’s even worse with the fact that you can only control what you say and how you respond. Barring weird read receipt interpretation, you should take care with your tone and check-in with how you feel before responding.

    In improv, you need to know who you are, where you care, what you want and how you feel – and if you’re missing one, things might not feel quite right. How you feel? That comes out in your tone.

    Give yourself that extra moment to think about things before you respond, especially if it’s a semi-serious conversation over text. Once you’ve written your response, read it over to be sure it has the tone you want.

  • Emojis – your non-verbals
    I. love. emojis. Love them. I can’t tell you how often I’ve responded in just emojis and I’m 37.Think of emojis like your non-verbals: in spoken communication and conversation, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Tone ties in there, yes – so do non-verbals like how you’re standing, your gestures, eye contact, and proximity.

    Think of your emojis as your non-verbals. They add a little bit of spice, just like a gesture: for emphasis, for emotion, for that little something extra. Use them to your heart’s content.

    Bonus question: I’m curious if there is a correlation between people who use a lot of gestures and people that use a lot of emojis. I doubt someone is lining up to conduct that study, but when they do, I said it first!

  • Listening: reading
    Listening is the same as reading. We can space out and not hear everything: we can space out and not read everything. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten a little more than irritated when I text two questions or a two-part ask, and the person only responds to half of it. I can’t be alone with this: at the same time, I know I’m not alone when it comes to not being the best reader/listener with text messages.

Just like a conversation, respond to the questions being asked of you, not the question you think is being asked! Take a few extra moments to ask yourself: does this answer the question they are asking me? Yes? Ok, send. No? Ok, how can I answer the actual question?

If you’re going to take the time to have a conversation via text instead of sending memes or gifs, give it the time it deserves.

What tips do you have for text? Share them here and let us know!