Texting and Divorce–The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Divorcing/divorced couples often use texting to communicate. The neutral arena seemingly offers exchange of information without contact or conflict. Yet, all to often–an innocent text spawns open warfare. A few tips help couples use texting to connect–not battle.
- The average adult spends 23 hours per week texting
- The average millennial exchanges 67 texts per day
- On average, Americans exchange twice as many texts as calls
- 98% of texts are opened and read within 3 minutes of sending. Responses are usually within 30 seconds.
Texting has become the default communication choice. With good, bad, and ugly results. Understanding when to text and when to avoid helps couples embrace the good–and avoid the ugly.
Texting works well for straight-forward exchanges of concrete information.
- “Could you please bring milk when you bring the kids home?”
- John’s game is at 6:00 at the south field.”
- Jane’s doctor’s appointment is at noon.”
Mom can send a message as the information comes to her. Dad can read at after his meeting. Both get on the same page without having to interrupt.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages and researcher on communication, offered the insight that communication is about 7% actual words, 38% body language, and 55% body language. While the numbers have been misused to ignore the real impact of words, communication experts agree that non-verbal cues keenly shade how words are heard and understood.
Texts omit 93% of the cues for effective communication. Making much of what happens via text ineffective and even destructive.
Divorced or divorcing parents often choose texting to avoid actually speaking to each other. Hoping to avoid conflict.
The outcome—ugly misunderstanding as tone of voice and facial expression are assumed rather than experienced. Researchers have found that, when stress is high, texts are misunderstood 93% of the time. Meaning when anyone uses a text to deliver unwelcome information, they are more likely to be misunderstood. And, in conflict.
A few simple guidelines can help couples know when to take advantages of texting’s convenience and when to avoid:
- If a communication requires more than three texts—call. The more back and forth, the more likely misunderstanding and argument will result. Calling restores context which reduces misunderstanding.
- If the sender knows a communication will cause issues–call, don’t text. Ever. Of course this is precisely when people want to use texts. To avoid the outburst. Far more effective–man-up and make the call. Put the difficult information into the context of a cooperative tone of voice and a willingness to work together.
- Text to people–not about them. This prevents having to address the fall-out for a message sent in anger and regretted later. It also keeps friends out of the middle. Good friends will thank you.
- Remember–texts are admissible in court. Without the context of body language, facial expression, or tone of voice. Read every text to detect how it could be misunderstood–or purposely misused–against the sender.
- Take more than the average 30 seconds to respond. Especially if angered by the message. Remember–when people are upset, there is a 93% chance the message was misunderstood. Instead, try to discern at least 3 possible interpretations to a message from the ex-spouse that could be taken well. People tend to rise to expectations. Even if the text was intended to harm, assuming and acting on the best can change the tone for the better.
Texting works beautifully for straight-forward, concise, unemotionaly messages. When people get beyond these, the default to a text does more damage than good. Use texts as they were meant to enjoy the good–and avoid the ugly.