Having Protective Text: The Right Times to Text Message
(c) Sylvia Henderson. All rights reserved.
First publishing rights to College World Reporter, 10/2011.
Communication – whether verbal, physical or written – has helped us transfer information, spread ideas, and solve problems for centuries. However, when text messaging entered the conversation in the late 1990s (and exploded in the early 21st century), it operated under a new set of communication principles: shorter, simpler and fewer statements.
Knowing when to text message is crucial for protecting your personal and professional reputation. By the end of this article, you’ll know the right situations to text and can leave the rest to a good old-fashioned telephone call.
It’s time to text when you need:
- Reassurance – Sending a quick, factual update can be helpful. “Just leaving the airport”, “Be there by 5”, or “Running late…again” are completely acceptable.
- Specificity – When specific information is requested, such as a daily stock alert, a text message is a good idea. For example, “Mocha-Cola closes up 3/4 at 19 7/8.”
- Immediacy – Mass text messages are sometimes used by companies to announce earnings, new products, or emergencies: “CEO update on new product @4PM EST.”
- Informality – Text messages are inherently brief and casual, making them acceptable among friends and work colleagues. For example, “Lunch @ pizza parlor 2day. Noon” would bolster that feeling of solidarity.
- Intimacy – Many spouses and romantic partners conduct supportive, thoughtful or sassy “I’m wearing THAT dress!” communications via text to maintain intimacy throughout the day and when schedules are hectic.
It’s time to abstain from texting when:
- Talking with the boss – Texting when expected and when conveying specific information is acceptable, but the majority of corporate leaders will not appreciate the quirkiness of an afternoon “wazup.”
- Arguing – Due to the already cold and peremptory nature of text messaging, using it when you’re angry will only make matters worse. Pick up the phone or arrange a meeting so that your messages are easier to convey – and understand.
- Tempted to sext – Never forget that your text messages live in cyberspace long after your time on Earth. Avoid sending risqué thoughts and photos; not only does it risk your reputation forever, but it’s also dangerous.
- You’re unsure of the receiver’s circumstances – It’s wise to remain text-free if you do not know what the recipient is doing or whom they are with. While the beauty of text messaging is that the recipient can control when and if they will respond, you’d hate for your text to interrupt an extremely important occasion.
Remember that text messaging, when used correctly, is an indispensable skill for achieving personal and professional success. The “right” and “not-so-right” situations listed here are simple suggestions that can help you communicate your message clearly, efficiently, and conveniently. Whatever you do, consider each situation on a case-by-case basis before hitting send.
Learn more about how to communicate across generations and when-and when not-to text from Sylvia’s book “TXTVERSATIONS: How Old Farts Must Communicate With Young Whippersnappers (and Vice-Versa) So We Can Get On With Life and Get Something Done!” ISBN #1-932197-31-1.