SMS, which is short for Short-Message-Service, has exploded in popularity worldwide, with over 6.1 trillion messages sent in 2010. This is expected to increase to over 10 trillion messages per annum in 2013.
SMS allows mobile phone users to send short text messages of under 160 characters to each other. There are obvious advantages to this style of communication including convenience, low cost and speed. There are also numerous pitfalls that I am frequently hearing about from my relationship counselling clients. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes when communicating via SMS, so that you can avoid relationship ruin.
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1. Sending emotionally loaded content.
Sending emotionally loaded messages can be a big pitfall in the world of online relating. The same applies for SMS communications. I’m not talking about messages of love, care, appreciation or gratitude. I am speaking about feelings such as anger, disappointment, sadness, frustration and other challenging feelings.
When you send a message that has strong emotional content, the receiver of the message may or may not correctly attune to the intensity or level of emotion in your message. This leaves your message wide open to mis-interpretation.
The take-away: Ask yourself why are you sending an SMS to convey your strong emotions? Are you avoiding the tension that comes from having a difficult conversation? When you avoid these types of conversations, you are not developing your ability to hold on to yourself in the face or tension, conflict or intensity of feelings. This is an essential relationship skill that we all need to develop in our growth as individuals.
2. Interpreting between the characters.
We are wired to interpret our surroundings and all the messages that we come into contact with. At 160 characters, an SMS has very limited information. Our brains will filter through the message and then project or interpret the emotional tone of the message to make sense of it. This is frequently a point of mis-communication or relationship breakdown because the message is translated into a different tone than the one intended.
For example, David sent a message to Alice early on in their relationship that he was enjoying spending time with her, but wanted to ‘go slow’. Alice’s interpretation of his message was that he was not interested in developing the relationship. Her trust issues and fear of being hurt again came to the surface and she withdrew from David without telling him. David was left confused and unsure of what was happening and felt hopeless about their future. His original meaning of ‘go slow’ was an indication of how much he cared about her. This lost-in-translation experience had a significant impact on each of them and their ability to form a strong bond in the early stage of their relationship.
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The take-away: When you are unsure of the meaning of a message, call the sender or meet in person and check-out the intention of the message. This simple action prevents relationship ruptures and facilitates clear communication.
3. Venting or dumping via SMS.