This question might sound strange at first. You might think, “Obviously texting is a conversation with another person.”
But I’ve been reflecting on this since it came to me in my morning meditation on April 26.
On the surface, texting is simply using letters of the alphabet to form words, sentences, and thoughts. You might even include an emoji icon to give a hint of what you’re feeling – but you’re still limited by what emojis are available.
Ask yourself this: When you read a text message, are you adding your own perception, beliefs, and emotions to a message? Have you done this before and maybe not realized it? Perception refers to: a thought, belief, or opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances.
Without seeing or hearing a person speaking their words to you (either in-person or even via video), you’re both missing out on facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and other cues. These social cues are so important as they complete the full picture of what the speaker is trying to say through a text message.
Think carefully about this. When someone sends you a text message, you unconsciously add your own perception to what you read. By doing this you might feel like you know how the other person is feeling or what they’re thinking. But in fact, you’re making an assumption based on your own perception and experience.
When you read a text message, do you ever say to yourself, “I am feeling _________ so the other person must be feeling the same way”? But is the sender actually feeling what you feel? You can’t really know unless they tell you exactly what they’re feeling or thinking. In reality you have to just read text messages exactly as the words are. If you’re not sure, ask the sender for clarification.
This issue really comes into play with online dating which is one of the main ways of meeting new people now. Online dating often begins with texting – and this can go on for quite some time – until you decide to meet. In the meantime, while you’re only messaging, you unconsciously form scenarios involving the other person. For example, do you worry as to why they haven’t replied to a text? Do you create stories in your mind trying to figure out what’s happening on their end?
This way of thinking can cause emotional triggers for you, making you anxious and causing you to second-guess yourself. But the fact is you don’t know what the other person is really thinking or doing because you haven’t asked them! And they haven’t told you!
By not asking the sender for clarification and putting your own perceptions on text messages, you end up forming an entire picture in your mind that doesn’t necessarily apply to this other person. Ask yourself: Am I forming a relationship with myself based on my own perception, or am I forming an honest one with this other person?
Remember not to get caught in the trap of thinking that someone feels what you feel; instead, acknowledge what you feel. But always ask what someone else is feeling or even thinking.
Edited by Tracy Wai de Boer