Please Don’t Text Me …Call Me

Please Don’t Text Me …Call Me

Texting has become the preferred mode of communication for many and especially for teens who send in excess of a hundred texts per day. Although adults are also texting more frequently. It’s quick, easy and in many instances more convenient than a phone call or an email.

Texting can be a valuable tool when used properly. It has given us a quick and easy means of conveying logistical details such as letting someone know what time our flight will arrive or if we’re running late. And yet texting is not suitable for more in-depth discussions as the written word alone, especially in its more abbreviated form cannot convey the many subtle nuances of what we’re intending to communicate.

Our ability to communicate effectively with other people depends largely upon our capacity to observe their facial expression and body language and to hear their vocal inflection and tonality. We cannot access any of this information when we’re communicating via text. And without this valuable input, it is so much easier to misconstrue what another person is attempting to communicate with us. And that often results in a lot of unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding that could have easily been prevented if people were to actually speak with one another.

There’s a disconnect that happens when we’re staring into the screens of our smartphones. Fewer of our senses are involved. We are less engaged in our interactions with other people when we communicate via text. The unfortunate consequence of not being able to see the other person’s face, hear their voice and feel their emotional response is that we miss out on so much of the richness and depth that is a critically important part of being more fully present in our interactions. The disconnect resulting from our reliance upon texting accounts for much of our loss of empathy. And that makes us far more likely to say or do stupid things that are hurtful to others.

A big part of text messaging’s appeal comes from our avoidance of conversation. We can easily avoid conversation by firing off a few messages. We tend to avoid conversation because we don’t want to experience the discomfort of having to address difficult or complex issues verbally or to hear the other person’s response. The problem with avoidance is that it prevents us from developing the inner strength and maturity needed to address the issues that are truly relevant to us. And in doing so it greatly retards our cognitive, emotional and interpersonal development.

By falling into the habit of communicating via text, you’re conditioning yourself to be less present in your interactions with other people. If you really want to be fully present, you need to be engaging as much of your sensory capacity as you can in your interactions. It is crucial for you to make a concerted effort to discuss important matters face to face. Or to call whoever you need to speak with via Skype when you need to address important issues if can’t see them in person. And if those options are not possible, then at least pick up the phone and make the call. Show up in real time, pay attention and participate.

Disconnectedness

It’s disturbing to realize how disconnected we have become from one another individually and collectively considering the extent to which we are connected with texting, email, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The technology and the applications that we’ve become so reliant upon are in many instances preventing us from having any kind of meaningful conversation.

Typed-out messages for many are fast becoming a substitute for the essential conversations that have sustained relationships by keeping us connected to one another. Our communicative skills will atrophy unless we regularly exercise our ability to connect face to face. We end up with these cognitive, emotional and physiological and interpersonal deficits that greatly impede our ability to communicate. In fact, many of us are struggling to communicate effectively as a result of these deficits because we no longer have the capacity to do so.

When we rely on texting as our primary mode of communication, we are much less likely to engage with those around us or to have meaningful conversations. And we are nowhere near as aware of what’s happening in our immediate environment or engaged with those around us when our attention is fixated on the screens of our devices.

What we’re missing out on

Communication is the foundation of our relationships. What many of us have yet to understand is that the vast majority of our communication is comprised of nonverbals. That includes body language and vocal tone and pitch. What we’re actually saying only makes up a small percentage of the communicative process.

Texting by its nature, facilitates a very surface level of communication, because we’re missing out on many of the crucial details needed to truly understand those with whom we’re interacting. And because of that we do not have as firm of grasp of the issues that need to be addressed.

When we’re texting, we’re not hearing the tone or inflection in the voice of the person speaking to us. We’re not making eye contact and we’re not able to see the gestures or facial expressions that would reveal how the other person is feeling or give us a sense of their intentions.

The lack of non-verbal cues has a hugely negative impact upon how people communicate with each other. Without actually hearing the words spoken and tone of voice, seeing body language and facial expressions or having eye contact, it is far more likely that the message we are attempting to convey will be misinterpreted, misunderstood or distorted. The real meaning of our message gets lost through the medium of texting.

It’s not only what you say. It’s also how you say it

People tend to communicate via text in short snippets, leaving out many of the crucial details needed to truly understand what they are attempting to communicate. Abbreviated texts lead to a lot of unnecessary confusion, because they offer few clues on the tone of a message or what the person is actually feeling. We’re often left to decipher the meaning of other people’s text communication and then fill in the gaps.

The humor, sarcasm and other personality traits that are a normal part of how we express ourselves in social situations are often misconstrued when we attempt to communicate via text. Without voice inflection, volume changes, facial expressions and gestures, the message we’re intending to communicate can easily be misunderstood and interpreted as hurtful. Misunderstandings resulting from the misinterpretation of what was said can easily trigger negative emotional reactions that can quickly escalate into some kind of an ugly exchange.

Misunderstandings often do result from misinterpreted text messages. We can easily be offended and feel confused and upset and we often find ourselves wondering what the other person really meant to say. But in many instances, we never clear up these misunderstandings because we are not communicating effectively. We fail to communicate effectively because we’re not taking the time to meet face to face or at least speak over the phone to talk things out and really hear one another so that we can gain an understanding of what is actually being said.

Your relationships with the people who matter are way too vulnerable and valuable to risk having them damaged by miscommunication and weirdness. But miscommunication and weirdness are an inherent aspect of what happens when we substitute actual conversation for messages typed out on a screen.

Can’t get them on the phone

Cell phones were just becoming more readily available when I first started spending time in Sri Lanka. Most of the people I knew primarily texted friends and family members because they couldn’t afford to make phone calls. That has all changed with the advent of smartphones and apps such WhatsApp and Imo. Now anyone with internet access on their smartphone can make unlimited calls. I really appreciate being able to talk with friends in Sri Lanka when I’m there or back in the United States.

Nearly everyone here in the United States had a land line when I was growing up. And most people have mobile phones now. There’s absolutely no reason why we cannot pick up the phone and call someone. But texting has for many become the preferred mode of communication. And yet I often hear so many men and women complain that they cannot get the people they’re meeting and going out with to actually converse with them over the phone.

The question I hear many people asking is “How do I get this person to stop texting or emailing me and start talking?”

A lot of men I know text the women they’re interested in, because they’re afraid that that a call would be seen as intrusive. They’re also afraid of being rejected. Women can help the men they’re interested in getting to know better feel more at ease with calling by letting them know that they prefer a phone call. Demonstrating congruence by actually returning the man’s phone call will also be a big help. It will also greatly increase the likelihood of developing some kind of meaningful connection.

Many people are content to go through life hiding behind their phones. We need to take into consideration that their inability to make a call and engage in conversation is indicative of serious emotional and interpersonal deficits. And that’s not the kind of person with whom we can sustain any kind of meaningful long-term relationship. They’re probably not all that reliable and will flake on us at some point. We don’t need the heart ache and other unnecessary drama. There is no point in wasting our time.

Why have we become so avoidant of conversation?

People with a bad case of “Motorola mouth” don’t know when to shut up. And they have a way of taking people hostage with the words spewing out of their mouth. It’s understandable that many people have a fear of getting trapped on the phone. It’s so much easier to respond with a quick “Hello” via text rather than risk a long, unpleasant phone conversation that leaves us feeling as though we’ve given a quart of blood.

We need to be mindful of other people’s needs and sensitive to the many subtle cues that indicate that the person we’re speaking with has limited time constraints. They may not want to spend a lot of time conversing by phone. As a general rule, it’s best not to exceed ten to twenty minutes when talking by phone unless you get a sense that the person you’re speaking with is really engaged in the conversation.

There are many other reasons to avoid phone calls. We revert to text to save time and energy. We sometimes do it so that no one can hear the trembling or the anger in our voice when we’re feeling upset. We also avoid phone calls so that we don’t have to hear the distress, whether it be crying, anger, or strain in another person’s voice.

Some people have become so uncomfortable with conversation that they text to communicate with people who are in their immediate proximity. That’s unfortunate because the face-to-face conversations that many of us have become so resistant to are crucial for developing and maintaining important relationships.

A big part of texting’s popularity has a lot to do with our resistance to showing up as fully present in our interactions. We can easily come up with all these excuses for avoiding conversation. We can say we’re too busy and that we don’t have enough time or that we’re exhausted by the end of the workday. It’s true that we’re living in a busy world and that we have all kinds of demands and responsibilities placed upon us. And yet making time for conversation with the people who are an important part of our lives is a matter of getting our priorities in order.

At some point, the people that you love and care for that truly matter to you are going to be gone. You or they may move away and eventually die. And when that happens, there will be no more opportunities to go back and have the important conversations with them. That’s why it’s so crucial for us to appreciate the people who matter while you have them in your life.

Phone or sit-down conversation do take time out of our already demanding schedules. However, it’s important for us to keep in mind that we are all relational beings. We need to relate to one another on a more intimate level because it nourishes us. And by making this investment in ourselves and the people who are a part of our lives we develop healthier, richer and more fulfilling relationships.

The ability to participate in substantive conversations is one of the most basic foundational aspects of our relationships. Meaningful relationships can only be sustained by conversation. Those of us who are truly capable of intimacy will show up fully present to have the important conversations. We want to hear the voices of the people who matter to us and they want to hear ours. We engage in spoken conversation because we understand that it helps us to deepen the connection. It also brings us into greater alignment by making sure we’re all on the same page.

Texting devalues and dehumanizes people

The act of typing words out on a screen without giving it much thought or effort tends to devalue people. We cannot help but feel saddened and disappointed getting one of those generic “Happy Birthday” texts after not seeing or hearing from a friend or loved one for weeks, months or even years. The person who sent the text didn’t even care enough to show up fully present by actually speaking with us. It leaves us wondering if we still hold any personal significance with their lives.

Our relationships become too casual, taking on an impersonal quality, when texting replaces actual spoken word conversations. The special people in our lives lose meaning and significance. Potential friends and lovers may never gain significance because we never get close enough to know them for who they truly are when we’re hiding behind the screens of our smartphones.

Texting has a dehumanizing effect. People with whom we interact cannot help but lose meaning and significance when we cannot see their gestures and facial expressions, hear the sound of their voice or feel their touch. People are nowhere near as real to us when we’re not taking them in through all of our senses.

The loss of empathy

Being so empathic, I cannot help but feel the pain other people experience when the person they met and were looking forward to going out with or they’ve been seeing abruptly cancel via text with no explanation.

Our reliance upon texting accounts for so much of our loss of empathy. We end up making all kinds of grossly insensitive and at times mean spirited comments that end up provoking anxiety on the part of the recipient that we would never have the nerve to say in person. Our lack of sensitivity and assholeishness stems from the fact that we are not as empathetically attuned to people when we are texting them.

Avoiding confrontation

Texting provides us with an indirect way to confront someone on their words and actions and tell them that we’re angry, upset or whatever else we happen to be thinking and feeling while avoiding actual phone or face to face confrontation. It has become fairly commonplace couples to argue via text. That’s unfortunate because avoiding the issues that need to be addressed causes many additional problems that can damage and even destroy important relationships.

It is always preferable to discuss problems face to face. If your goal is to learn to have healthy and loving relationships, it is important for you to learn to face the issues head on, deal with any subsequent emotional responses and have the difficult conversations in person, even though it can be painful at times.

The weird power dynamics of text communication

Open ended conversations

Face to face and even phone conversations have a designated beginning and an ending. And they generally require more deliberate effort and focused attention. At the conclusion of a conversation, we are able to redirect our attention and focus on doing something else.

People just stop responding at some point when texting. Rarely does anyone ever say “Goodbye” at the end of a texting conversation. There is no certainty that a conversation is really over, because we may get a response a few hours or days later. We might pick up a new conversation at some point in the future. Or we may never hear from the other person again. And that leaves with all this additional free-floating vagueness and ambiguity.

Texting has made it so much easier to ignore people

The regular back and forth of in person conversations usually do not involve indefinite pauses or the possibility of being ignored. But there’s a weird power dynamic that often plays out in text conversation. There is always the very real possibility that we will not receive a response to the texts we send. No matter how important the message we hope to convey may seem to us, the person on the receiving end can easily ignore our attempt to reach out to them.

It’s normally very difficult to ignore someone when they’re right in front of you …unless you’re being an asshole. Although it can be a fairly common experience in New York City. But it is relatively easy to ignore someone when they text you. You can just set your phone down or put them out of your mind. And when that person isn’t in front of you, you can’t see the pain you’re causing when you ignore them.

When you say or do something hurtful to another person who is in your presence you can see the hurt in their eyes. You probably also feel the hurt they’re feeling if you’re also empathetic. And you cannot help but realize you’re being an insensitive asshole. But if you’re mean or ignoring someone via text, you cannot see or feel the other person’s emotional distress, therefore you may never know the impact you’re having upon them. You cannot see how they’re left feeling strung out or wondering what they may have said or done wrong.

Exacerbating our sense of emotional vulnerability

We live in a culture where vulnerability is seen as weakness. And yet when someone ignores our texts we feel an even greater compulsion to reach out to them. We’re making ourselves emotionally vulnerable to people who at times ignore us and by doing so, we’re giving them considerably more power over us. And every time we do so we’re losing more of our sense of grounding and personal power.

Fears of abandonment

The person we’re texting could be ignoring us and yet we may not even realize it until hours or days later. All the while, we’re left on edge, waiting and not knowing when or if we will get a response. Whenever we’re left waiting for a response from someone or waiting to continue our interaction with another person, we’re left on hold. Being left on hold can throw us off balance emotionally. All the while, the anxiety continues to build within. And as time continues to pass with no response, we’re left with all these horrible feelings of abandonment.

Can texting help in any way to augment a relationship?

Many are now relying upon texting as their main mode of communication with their romantic partners and other important people in their lives. The added stress resulting from miscommunication, misperception and confusion can have a hugely negative impact upon our relationships.

Texting when done mindfully can help to strengthen a relationship and bring couples closer together. But we need to be careful to refrain from sharing new information with our partners such as major life transitions or changes in our feelings about the relationship. And when conflict arises in our relationships, we need to make a concerted effort to work it out in person

In person communication is by far the best for building closeness. Many of us are working long hours or have conflicting schedules. Keeping in touch with a quick check in to say hello, sharing photos or something about how your day is going lets your partner know you’re thinking about them. And that can help to build closeness and move the relationship forward.

Many of us are spending inordinate amounts of time texting and messaging people that we’re meeting and hooking up with on dating sites. Dating itself is confusing enough. Attempting to do so minus conversation puts us at an even greater disadvantage. Real-life contact and actual conversation are what we need to figure out whether or not people are right for us.

When digital widens the divide

Understanding one another through our many layers of gender, cognitive, emotional, cultural, social, economic and religious filters can be difficult enough. But we’re making it nearly impossible when we attempt to substitute text for actual conversation.

Communication can have a very different kind of significance for men and women. Men primarily communicate to convey information. There’s nothing more to say once the information is exchanged. Women communicate to relate, share and connect and by doing so create intimacy. If a man doesn’t text a woman as frequently or enthusiastically as she texts him, she’s more likely to assume that he has no interest in her.

We are far more likely to bridge these gaps in understanding when we take time to have conversations and actually listen empathetically to one another.

Difficulty making the connection

Trying to establish a connection to another person, especially if it’s someone you’ve met that you find yourself attracted to via text is so weird anyway. It is so much more difficult to establish any kind of empathetic connection with someone if we cannot see their face, hear the sound of their voice and feel their touch. Therefore, people are more likely to become distracted and forget about the person they’ve met or spent time with and completely blow off their text.

Plants need soil and fertilizer, sunlight and air in order to grow and thrive. Relationships, like plants, have a fragility about them. They also need nourishment in order to grow and thrive. Relying upon texting as our primary mode of communication puts us at a tremendous disadvantage when attempting navigate the complexities of a relationship. We are much less likely to have the meaningful conversations that are needed to nourish our relationships. Without proper nourishment existing relationships and even more so the connections we are beginning to develop wither and possibly die.

Added layers of work-related stress

I appreciate having people reach out to schedule appointments, but I find that it creates a whole additional layer of stress when they attempt to communicate with me via text. Texting back and forth often ends up taking a lot more of my time and energy. I can always handle the logistics much more easily over the phone. I also feel a greater sense of ease communicating by phone because I know that everyone is on the same page.

People email and text me wanting to know about my classes and individual sessions. I reply by telling them that I will be happy to answer any questions they have if they give me a call. Getting them to take the step of calling me enables me to determine if the person is serious enough for me to invest my time and effort.

Much of the emphasis of the work I do with people is to get them to show up more fully present in all aspects of their lives. And I much rather talk on the phone or in person and have everyone show up present in real time because my communication is far more impactful. I also know that those who actually speak with me are far more likely to be accountable in their words and actions.

I have very little patience for back and forth text exchanges. I feel like I’m dealing with an adolescent. If someone texts me, I usually pick up the phone and call them right back. And then I tell them “Please do not text me! Pick up the phone and call me if there’s something you need to communicate.”

When important details are left out

People text because they want to communicate faster and more efficiently. I hate it when people text me for two reasons. The first is that I don’t feel that people are anywhere near as present with me. The other problem I have with texting is that so many of the crucial details I need to be fully cognizant of what’s going on are often left out. And I find myself having to go back and forth and it usually ends up taking a lot more of my time and energy.

People that I’ve worked with will at times reach out to me by text or email after the individual sessions to ask me questions that require in depth answers or to tell me about the healing process they’re going thorough.

My mentor Horace was one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian Tribe. Most people in our modern-day world are not all that familiar with the healing practices that Native Americans and people of other indigenous cultures have relied up for centuries. I do not have the time, energy or patience to convey so much detailed information via text. And those who have scheduled for the first time via text and email are in many instances not physically or psychologically prepared for the individual healing sessions.

The complexity of this healing process cannot be adequately conveyed via text or even by email. And it can sometimes take me hours to compose a detailed response that I can convey verbally in ten to twenty minutes. That’s why I do everything I can to get people on the phone or speak with them in person when addressing matters pertaining to the healing process they’re going through.

I can feel when people are understanding what I’m saying. I can feel when they’re just not getting it. I find that people are less likely to comprehend what I’m attempting to communicate if I do so via text or email. Therefore, I am much more hesitant to invest all of the additional time and effort that it takes to do so.

Get your ass on the phone …We seriously need to TALK

It may be satisfying for some people to fire off texts or emails, so they can cross tasks off their to-do lists. Their “efficiency” has often come at my expense.  Miscommunications from text and email exchanges have on many occasions resulted in unnecessary conflicts over scheduling, compensation for my services and accommodations when there was travel involved.

There was one instance that involved travel on my part a number of years ago that resulted in a big ugly drama because the person on the other end handling logistics only communicated via email. She wasn’t present with me in real time therefore important logistical details were never communicated.

I found myself stuck in a funky hotel and then I didn’t get paid for my services after going through all that expense and exhausting travel. After weighing the consequences, I sent an email demanding payment. I never could get the woman who sponsored me on the phone and ended up in an ugly back and forth email exchange. She became very angry with me and cut off all communication for a few years. This whole unnecessary drama could have been averted had she spoken with me via phone prior to my visit. This is one of many examples of why I always feel apprehensive when people attempt to retain my services via email or text.

Classical conditioning

In 1889 Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov began his experiments with dogs in which he demonstrated that behavior can be changed using conditioning. Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to expect a reward in the form of being fed every time he rang a bell. We are all the subjects of an ongoing experiment being conducted by Apple, Samsung, Facebook and all the other tech, social media and marketing giants. They all have a vested interest in making their products highly addictive. And in many ways, we are like Pavlov’s dogs in that we have been conditioned by our use of texting, social media and the technology powering it to expect intermittent rewards.

The psychological theory of classical conditioning tells us that we can become conditioned to respond to any auditory, visual, olfactory or tactile stimulus that is associated with a reward. All those intermittent rewards that we get whenever we receive a new text message or social media notification stimulates the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in our brains and enteric nervous system that causes us to want, desire and seek out rewards. The release of dopamine starts the seeking behavior. We get rewarded for the seeking and that causes us to seek even more. That’s why we can’t stop texting or checking our smartphone for new social media and news updates, texts and emails.

The loss of solitude

I find it incredibly annoying when I’m working with someone and their damn phone is buzzing every few minutes. I usually ask them to turn the phone off and have at times asked them how they ever manage to get anything done with their phone going off all the time.

A big part of the problem is that many people cannot tolerate solitude. They cannot handle being present with themselves for more than a few minutes. Solitude gives us the opportunity to reflect and sort things out, to develop a sense of how we feel and to know what we want in life. It is crucial for the development of the self. With all these continual interruptions we rarely, if ever, have any time to just be with ourselves.

Doesn’t that make it okay if everyone else is doing it?

Wherever we look, we see more and more people texting away with their heads buried in their phones. We cannot help but think to ourselves “So if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that make it OK?” We could be asking ourselves the same question if we were to live among some of the cultural groups where much of the population is destroying themselves with the heavy consumption of alcohol and other recreational drugs. We need to be thinking for ourselves and examining the consequences of our own and other people’s behaviors. And by doing so, we can choose healthier modes of expression.

Many of us need to be completely honest with ourselves in acknowledging that our phones, social media, the internet and texting are a major addiction. We then need to stop allowing our lives to revolve around our texting, social media, news, porn and other digital addictions. Our text messages and social media updates will still be waiting there for us at the end of the day.

Impatience and impulsiveness

Texting encourages rapid-fire exchange of single-sentences or snippets of thought. This style of communication isn’t conducive to face-to-face communication. Our brains become habituated to our texting habits over time which then spill over into all other aspects of our daily lives. Those of us who text a lot are more likely to become uncomfortable with the slower and deliberately focused pace of in-person conversation.

Establishing our own basic rules of communication

When was the last time you sat down to have a real conversation, whether it be by phone or better yet in person with a good friend or family member?

The importance of communication cannot be overemphasized as it is the underlying basis of all human relationships. Communication facilitates the dissemination of knowledge while enabling us to develop relationships with other people. It helps us to express our ideas and feelings and to understand the thoughts, emotions, needs and considerations of others.

Open and honest communication makes it possible for us to address important issues, resolve conflict and clear up misunderstandings and by doing so, it facilitates learning, healing and growth. It builds trust while giving us a greater sense of security because we know where we stand in our relationships. Communication also helps us to achieve our individual and collective goals and to be more productive. We all need to be communicating in the ways that are most effective.

It is important for all of us to establish and then follow some basic rules when it comes to text and verbal communication. Texting needs to be kept to a minimum and used primarily for logistical purposes. To the best of our ability, we need to be meeting up with the people who matter to us face to face or at least by phone.

Reclaiming conversation

Communication is important for the development of any kind of substantive relationship. Real conversations enable us to better understand and therefore empathize with one another. Conversations improve our mental, emotional and physical health because they make it possible for us to develop stronger connections with other human beings. Participating in conversations help us to expand our intellectual range by giving us the opportunity to hear other perspectives and learn new things. Engaging in conversations enables to take on the role of an active participant the world in which we live.

The most valuable gift

Smartphones when used mindfully can provide us with a valuable set of tools that serve many purposes. We’re getting ourselves into far more trouble that we realize by allowing our smartphones to become the primary filter through which we interface with other people and the world in which we live. We need to be eliminating as many unnecessary filters as we possibly can if we are to ever become more fully present, realize our personal power and experience any kind of truly meaningful and lasting exchange with others.

The connections you share with those individuals who become a part of your life are one of the most valuable gifts that life has to offer. Your smartphone can help you to reach out to other people. In order to living your life to the fullest, you need to set your phone down once you make the connection to engage with your entire sensory capacity.

Focus on the people you are actually with, not the ones you’re connected to digitally. Stop allowing your phone to continually cheat you out of the gift you are being given. You cannot experience all the richness and depth that are a normal part of being passionately engaged in your relationships with the important people in your life when you’re hiding behind the screen of your smartphone.

It is crucial that you make time to talk, which means having actual conversation with the important people in your life. Reach out to your friends. Make the time to sit down and talk and actually do things together. Be as authentic as you can in your interactions, expressing what you’re truly thinking and feeling.

©Copyright 2018 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

 

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