Seven Ways to Text with Graciousness and Savvy
By: Maralee McKee
Texting etiquette hasn’t reached the heights of the tsunami of texts we send every day because no other technological form of communication has caught on so quickly. It’s easy to see why many have become so smitten.
Texting is the 21st century equivalent of passing a note in class!
It began with students who discovered that electronic notes are more direct and less anxiety-filled than tearing out a sheet of notebook paper, scribbling an “I’ve gotta tell you…” message, folding it securely, and hoping the teacher doesn’t catch you, or that others don’t read your note on its way around the room to your BFF four rows to your left in pre-algebra.
Usually what’s popular with tweens and teens is passé to grownups. Not this time. We might have balked at our kids at first; now we’ve joined them. Those of us over 30 didn’t vote or even hold a town hall meeting, but either through agreement or acquiescence, most of us have joined in. (Have you seen the new Verizon commerical where the teens are getting on to mom and dad for texting? I included it here for you to take a look at.)
Of course, texting in itself isn’t bad or good. It’s in how we use it.
It’s kind of like a family of deer. Watching them graze leisurely in a meadow is a delight. Have them prancing full throttle through your living room equals disaster.
I text and I don’t plan to stop. Texting in a place where you’re not with anyone or bothering anyone is fine. However, texting around others or as part of multi-tasking often causes harm.
It’s in the less obvious ways than car crashes (We’re 93% more likely to crash if texting while driving.), or while walking, (a New York City area teen fell into a manhole while texting; luckily, she’s fine now) that texting hurts by depersonalizing our personal encounters.
With every text message sent or received in the presence of others around the family table, the living room sofa, the boardroom, or the grocery store check-out lane, we’re separating our focus from the person in front of us.
Our attention is a gift.
Our full attention is the foundation of every kindhearted, other-centered interaction. Texting alters the continuity, focus, and momentum of our encounters.
It produces anxiety (mild to severe) in the other person, and whether they’re telling you (or even aware of it themselves) or not, they’re attention is apt to desire to focus on someone who pays them back equally.
These are big matters.
If we’re not being careful, texting can hurt our family, our friendships, our business relationships, even our ability to govern.
A recent ruckus in the New York Senate halted agendas because one senator was angry at another for fiddling with his smart phone throughout a meeting.
A Yahoo Hot Jobs poll of 5300 people earlier this year found that 33% of associates admit to texting regularly during meetings. (If 33% admit to it, how many do you think really are doing it? Lot’s more, for sure.)
I’ll never forget, a couple of years ago I was teaching a second-grade class on car manners. When the lesson turned to riding to and from school, the children stunned me. One little guy started, “Mrs. McKee, I don’t talk to my mom on the way home from school. She talks to her friends on her phone. I just get to play my video games.” One after another, almost all 15 children shared how their moms and dads didn’t give them their focus in what should be precious one-on-one time.
The children felt their parents’ lack of attention. None of them ever told their moms it upset them. Each one simply conformed to his mom’s norm and mirrored her by turning to his own electronic gadget to fill the time.
They were alone together.
So what do we do at home, at work, and in our world at large to keep up with technology and to be purposely focused on those physically near us?
Well… first we make ourselves aware that we might be adapting to a new norm of lack of focus on others without even being aware of it.
Second, we stop.
Next, we set down new social standards (etiquettes) for ourselves, our families, and our businesses, for interacting with technology so that we use it to connect with those near us, not disconnect from them.
As I sat down and wrote my list of texting etiquette, I quick as a wink realized it was way too long for this post.
So, here I offer my top seven tips for keeping up with the Joneses while texting without becoming “the guy,” the one who lets technology get in the way of his face-to-face interactions.
Seven Golden Rules for Gracious Texting
1. Think of texts as preludes or follow-ups to conversation, not the conversation itself. Keep them short. More than 160 characters means that a phone call or e-mail is the better way to deliver your message.
2. It’s super easy for your tone to be misunderstood in a text, even more so than an in e-mail. That’s why texts are best left for mundane messages like, “I’m home safely!” or, “See you at 8:00 PM at your house.”
3. Texting while you’re with others is as rude as getting up and leaving them in mid-sentence. Just don’t do it! Also, don’t text in movies, church, meetings, class, or while at someone’s house. Even if your friends have left the area for a moment, or the movie, business meeting, or church service hasn’t started yet, be tuned in to the place you’re at as soon as you enter the area, even in the quiet moments and down time.
4. Texting is the most informal form of communicating. Usually, you don’t want to represent your business or organization or to relay important family news (unless everyone has agreed in advance) in a text message. Call or e-mail instead.
5. Don’t use text lingo and shorthand unless you’re positive (It’s really hard to be positive.) the recipient is fluent in the constantly emerging language of texting. One techno-savvy twenty-something wrongly assumed “LOL” meant “lots of love.” Poor girl, she was heartbroken and embarrassed when she found out the guy on the other end was being rude by “laughing out loud.” He wasn’t sending his love at all.
6. Don’t leave them guessing. If the recipient likely doesn’t have your cell phone number stored in their phone, make sure to let them know who you are before composing the rest of your text. For example: “Sarah (Kim’s mom from school)…”
7. Don’t send texts (or e-mails that go to smart phones) after bedtime. If the recipient forgot to turn their phone to silent before turning in for the night (like my husband has done twice in the last week!), you’ll wake people up at 3:00 AM by the beep of their phone alerting them they have a new message.
8. OK, I know, I said “7 Tips” but this one just has to be said again. Please, please, please, don’t ever text, or read a text while driving! Maybe you haven’t hurt yourself or anyone yet; but this just could be the time! Don’t do it, ever!
Well there it is, like I said, it’s just a start! Now it’s your turn!
Help write the chapter on texting etiquette. Comment back and include what you want the world to consider about keeping others first while texting. Feel free to share your texting stories. It just might help someone shine when facing the same dilemma in the midst of their everyday encounters!
A McKee Update!
You have been missed… a whole bunch! It feels good to be back. I kept busy this summer with the boys being home and with writing the giant youth etiquette curriculum that will be out in April or May! (Look for more details about how you can become a Manners Mentor® for ministry, profit, and fun in the weeks ahead!)
Now that my days are free, I’ll be back to blogging about once a week. Our next post will be something new. I’m going to share with you a favorite recipe. It’s what I call one of my collection of “Golden Spoon” go-to’s. I have a short-list of easy impressive dishes I turn to every time I entertain or need a perfect dish to bring to an event. I’m excited to share them with you in the coming months.
Also upcoming, I’ll share podcasts and video segments where I’ll sit and chat and we can learn from being together. So make yourself some coffee or tea and plan on joining me. It will be fun! Now, if I can just overcome my nervousness on the same day that my hair looks half-way decent I’ll be set to go!
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I have a new fan page where I share a super short, super savvy tip of the day! We just started and already have over 250 fans! I can hardly beleive it! Come join in the fun! In Facebook type in, “Maralee McKee Manners Mentor” to join the fan page! (You’re also welcome to friend me on my personal page.)
Right Now, come join me in the comment section!
Help write the chapter on texting etiquette for my book! What do you want the world to know?
I appreciate each of you. I hope you know that, but just in case you don’t, consider yourselves much loved!