Bend Relationship Coach: Avoid Important Conversations Online

October 25, 2016 by

Tell us if you’ve ever been in this situation:

Tension is rising between you and your partner. Maybe something is bugging you. Maybe they’re acting strange. Or maybe you left each other on an awkward note.

You don’t know how to address the issue. But you want to get your feelings off of your chest now. Otherwise, it will eat at you all day. It will take away from your work, studies, and so on.

So you figure you might as well get it over with. You send your partner a quick text to sort out what’s on your mind.

If you’ve been in this situation, you might be cringing. After all, do serious conversations over text, e-mail, or other forms of impersonal communication go well?

As a relationship coach, I can say “No” with some authority. At least not usually.

If you don’t believe me, check out this recent study that was published in the journal Human Communication Research. Two researchers at Chatham University tested the abilities of friends and strangers to read e-mails that were intended to represent different emotions.

The researchers found that, although the friends of the writers felt more confident in their ability to interpret the emotions intended in the e-mails (and the writers felt more confident in their friends as well), this was absolutely false. Friends didn’t do any better at interpreting the intended emotion behind written communication than random people on the street.

What this study proves is that even the people that know you best (friends, family members, partners, and so on) likely won’t know what you really meant if you write something to them.

It’s worth mentioning that the study also showed that emoticons, ALL CAPS, and exaggerated punctuation had no effect on readers’ ability to interpret the intended emotion. We’re just not good at determining what someone is feeling from their writing.

A Lack of Clarity Leads to Further Problems

What does this mean? Well, when you and your partner are not clear with each other, you may get confused about the other person’s emotions, intentions, and proposed solutions to your conflicts. A misunderstanding during a serious conversation could lead to further misunderstandings, and possibly further conflicts.

We all know that it’s hard to sit and wait on an issue, especially when you have to wait hours and your phone is right beside you. But you will come to an easier and more satisfying conflict resolution if you wait until you are face-to-face with your partner. Facial expressions, gestures, and vocal intonation are all important pieces of body language that will allow you and your partner to receive the intended message.

For more tips on conflict resolution and having difficult conversations, consider contacting a relationship coach at Bend Marriage Counseling.