Doing Life Together

textingMost of us realize that a good way to get a response from a child, teen or young adult is to text them. This is how they like to communicate.

There are benefits to texting communication: 1) Quick response 2) More convenient communication 3) Children feel more self-control when texting and thinking through what they want to say- they can rewrite their thoughts  4) People may have boldness to say things that might be difficult face-to-face.

But should we place convenience and preference over learning face-to-face skills? 

Texting is easier than facing a person. One of the complaints I hear from teens is that they can gather their thoughts, feel less tense and bring up issues by texting. But let’s pick this apart.

1) When you are in life situations, you can’t text your boss, your neighbor, your church member, etc. You have to learn how to speak on the spot. If you don’t practice this skill, how will you learn it?

2) What is wrong with feeling tension? We should feel tense when there is a problem, confrontation, bad decision or tough topic. The goal is to learn how to manage that tense feeling and work through it, not avoid it. This is why I believe we are seeing more anxious teens–they don’t practice sitting with anxiety, being offended, tolerating differences, etc. Instead, they want to avoid or make the problem go away. People need to learn to tolerate distress.

3) There is an art to bringing up issues or problems. Just ask any marital therapist. The way you approach a person–tone, soft start up, focusing on the issue vs the person, etc. is key to good conflict resolution. Texting doesn’t provide that practice.

4) People need to practice reading the nonverbal cues and tones of interactions and relationships. Otherwise, we create emotionally unintelligent people.

So in my mind, convenience and preference don’t trump learning emotional intelligence and practicing needed social skills.  Parents, be more intentional with helping kids put down the devices and look you in the eye to have face-to-face communication. It’s a life skill they need to learn.


Dr Linda Mintle is the author of We Need To Talk, a guide to helping people navigate conflict.

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