To Text or Not To Text: When You Should Pull it Back

spoiler – probably always

Interpersonal communication is dicey enough the way it is – add in email and text communication (not to mention actually connecting with others on social media, and not just yelling into the void) and you have a recipe for a mini-disaster in miscommunication if you aren’t careful.

This article goes out to folks who have the choice to text, email or call. In some cases, text communication is the method of communication, and in those cases, that’s the best way. For folks that have the choice: this one is for you.

A quick primer: interpersonal communication refers to the sharing of information between two or more people. I hesitate to say that social media is interpersonal communication (it should be! You should be having conversations!) Texting definitely is. Here are three quick text tips that might seem obvious (but aren’t always!) for the next time you hit send:

Work Texts = Meh

I might be in the minority here, but I don’t care. If it’s outside of work hours, don’t text. If it’s inside of work hours, maybe – definitely stop to think, “Huh, do I need to text this or can I just talk to the other person?” If you don’t need to work text someone, don’t.

Why? Because that line of professionalism can move from “once in awhile texts when important” to “texting after 6 pm about work stuff that can definitely wait until the next day.” I’ve seen WAY too many clients tell me about folks they work with texting at all hours, things that are 100% not time-sensitive and could be an email. If it can be an email, let it be an email.

Before you hit me with “but we’re all friends here!” or “but we’re family!” stop. That’s toxic behavior. You’re not friends or family, you’re colleagues and coworkers. In improv, relationships are critical for conversations to be effective – same with interpersonal communication.

Don’t be the boss that texts when your employee is off work, and definitely don’t be the coworker that thinks that something can’t wait until the workday. If you’re not facing life or death or a fire, don’t text.

Emotional Texts = Call or In Person

The last one was more on the professional side of things, so to tap in the personal – if you’re finding that your text is so long it takes up the whole screen with emotion – don’t text. Call the person or meet them in person.

Improv conversations are built on four primary principles: who you are in relation to the person you’re talking to, where you are, what you want and what they want, and how you both feel – and if your feelings are limited to text and emoji/gif use only, you better believe you’re losing some of that emotion. Also: you probably don’t want someone to have the same feeling seeing your text as they would looking at the breakup email from their college boyfriend (ahem).

If you have a lot of emotion going into a text – and especially if it’s long – ask yourself why you’re texting and why you aren’t connecting with them in real life. (Or at least over the phone!)

Things on Fire = Don’t Text

Do you need something NOW or even YESTERDAY in the grand scheme of time? Do not text. Is there an actual emergency? Like something is currently on fire and you need assistance? If you can call and you truly need an answer as quickly as you think you do, call.

Repeat after me: you cannot control how someone responds to you – only how you respond to their response.

Next time you fire off a text, think about why you’re sending it and if it’s better suited to be an email, call or in-person conversation. Good luck!