The Hidden Treasure

Where Ancient Wisdom Meets Contemporary Psychology

Warning: Don’t text and expect meaningful communication

Written By: Vic Rebman Ph.D - Feb• 08•11

As a practicing psychologist over the last 30 years I have helped hundreds of couples examine and improve the quality of their relationships.  While the ingredients of a healthy relationship will forever remain the same; trust, respect, and open and honest communication, to name a few, somethings have changed significantly.   One of these changes is the way in which we communicate.  With e-mail, texts, and Facebook, we have new ways of communicating and keeping in touch with the world around us.  However, these new ways bring with them a whole new set of relationship issues through which to navigate.

One common mistake, made by those I have recently counseled, involves the attempt to address conflict and issues through text messages and e-mails.  It is not a wise practice to attempt to communicate about emotionally charged issues electronically.  There is too much room for miscommunication.  Even small issues can easily escalate into major conflicts.  A guiding rule to follow: Don’t text and expect meaningful communication!  Miscommunication through electronic communication is not surprising when you consider that only 7% of effective communication is verbal.  Effective emotional communication strongly depends upon accurate visual information.  In an informational exchange, it is estimated that 38% of effective communication depends on accurate assessment of vocal tone and inflection, and 55% relies on facial expression and body language.  This means that 93% of the information we need to communicate effectively is lacking in electronic communication!!

When I counsel couples, one guiding rule is that they do not attempt to communicate any meaningful emotional issues through e-mail or texting.  By all means, you can text your grocery lists, schedule changes, and positive affections, but leave the communication on emotionally charged issues for face-to-face time together.  Learning to sit down and respectfully listen to one another requires the ability to process all the emotional information available, and in the moment.  Effective emotional communication cannot, nor will it ever be, through electronic methods.  It is only that human-to-human, face-to-face communication, with a genuine desire to understand and respect one another, that we have the ability to accurately interpret and convey the emotional information we need to both give and receive in building and enriching genuine emotional intimacy. 

For more information on building effective relationship communication, I highly recommend John Gottman’s book, The Relationship Cure.  In this book, Dr. Gottman lays out five steps for guiding and strengthening marriages, families, and friendships.  This book has a good deal of useful information.

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