Why Telephone is Better Than Texting

Why Telephone is Better Than Texting

I could have written this article.

As a dating coach in the 21st century, I have witnessed many of my peers create products and programs teaching people to text and use dating apps.

That’s sort of like telling people to use more plastic and fossil fuels. We sure do love the convenience, but we have to admit: there’s some pretty serious consequences.

In this case, the consequence is that people conduct entire relationships via text – and, objectively – text is not the best way to conduct a relationship. The easiest, maybe. The laziest, for sure? But I don’t know a single important conversation that ever went BETTER because it was being conducted by text.

I don’t know a single important conversation that ever went BETTER because it was being conducted by text.

“One of the best arguments in favor of phone calls will be obvious to anyone who’s ever gone back and forth for three days via email trying to pick a spot for Tuesday’s happy hour. Guhan Subramanian, the director of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, which teaches business- and law-school students the finer points of conflict resolution, argues that spoken conversation accomplishes far more in a shorter amount of time. In any discussion, “people are asking questions, probing, asking follow-up questions,” he says. “It’s obviously a lot easier to do when you’re over the phone or in person, compared to by email or text.”

I’m fortunate to have met my wife before texting was ubiquitous and could probably imagine that I’d be abusing text, the same as anybody else. But since I’m on the outside looking in, I can share candidly that any time a client shares her lengthy text chain with me, an actual conversation is always in order. Newsflash: evidently conversation is scary. Honestly, I did not know this.

“For other people, a sense of anxiety can come from the on-the-spot nature of phone calls. Text communication allows anywhere from a moment to several days of self-editing. But that itself can come with some drawbacks, according to Subramanian. “Over email, the message that’s received may not be the same as the message that’s sent,” he says. It’s missing the back-and-forth contextualization and clearer tone that spoken conversation provides.”

On-the-spot nature? Isn’t it, just like, TALKING to people? The kind of thing we’ve done for millennia when we see them out and about? Why is it anxiety-producing to spontaneously form words without mediating them through a phone? Can anybody explain this to me?

“Gerkin has taken up the same tactic I have to test the waters: simply asking people whether they’d like to give him a call. “The assumption that convenience means written, quick communication is a thing that needs to be challenged,” he says, even though it’s sometimes true. The trick, according to Gerkin, is to be more actively thoughtful about which medium might be best suited to a particular interaction. He nods to the work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle, who argues that texting and emailing are often useful for quick, logistical, or low-priority communications, but that for more complex matters, spoken conversations can’t be replaced.”

No shit. I made this back in 2014. Enjoy.

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  1. 1

    Amen, Evan.

    I recently watched a YouTube video where a dating coach was praising the virtues of a text break-up because you can engineer your response over text to seem cool and indifferent, even when you might be in agony inside. Seriously?! was what I thought. Have we got to the point that we’re so comfortable hiding behind text to lie to each other about our feelings?

    In my many relationships over the years – not just romantic, but friends, family, and work as well – I have had the opportunity to observe how much better conversations go when they are had in real life (or failing that, over the phone, but face to face is better). Issues are resolved much more quickly and with more respect and understanding. I just had a conversation with my boyfriend last night where I noticed he was a bit distant and cranky. I asked him if everything was ok, and we both immediately came up against our human insecurity. Mine because I didn’t know whether he was annoyed with me, and his because he *was* in a mood but didn’t want to upset me or push me away. We were able to get to the bottom of it very quickly – it turned out that it had been a long, frustrating week for him and someone at work had disrespected him. I learned not to take things so personally, and he learned to communicate with me or ask me for what he needed (eg. a little alone time) if something was bothering him. We ended the conversation closer, wiser, and back in connection with each other.

    However, I know from experience (not with him, but with other guys) that if we had had the conversation over text, we both would probably have become mired in our insecurity and the issue would have become bigger and more drawn out than it needed to be.

    I think the biggest reason that texting is a very bad medium in which to have sensitive, difficult or emotional conversations is that people are insecure and they jump to conclusions. They don’t have the context which comes with talking to someone face to face and so they make assumptions and say or do things that damage the relationship. That context – the facial expressions, the tone of voice, being able to touch someone, explain yourself, get questions answered – is what calms us down as people and creates understanding. Most people are simply not able to give that context to themselves when having a text conversation, and so they often jump to negative conclusions.

  2. 2

    I dont see the big deal. Maybe it seems like something good has been lost for those that grew up in generations where telephone conversation was normal and maybe it has, but at the same time, people didn’t always talk on the phone. Telegraph and letters weren’t on the spot communication and could be planned and manipulated (or simply a good way to brush someone off without having to put on a big act – like texting).

    In the end people still end up talking face to face so who cares.

    As for me I’m glad texting is preferred over telephone conversation. If I don’t want a back and forth I don’t respond to it. If I dont want to be interrupted I don’t keep my phone near me.
    I’d rather have a long conversation face to face with my girlfriend rather than listen to her vent about things for a half hour on the phone, which is what would surely happen if phone convo was the norm.

  3. 3

    Texting is what ended my last relationship, and how I came to find Evan when I was searching for “why he left”.

    The problem was on both sides; me expecting him to text when it wasn’t in his nature, and he couldn’t seem to figure out that tone doesn’t translate, especially sarcasm (which we both joked about as being our “love language”.

    I am much more careful about texting now, thanks to you, Evan.

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