Text with Confidence

You stare at your phone…

And a cold feeling settles into your gut.

You re-read his text again.

Is he mad at you for something?

Is this supposed to be funny?

Is he saying it’s over?

As your thumbs hover over the keypad, your mind remains stubbornly blank.

You have to reply…

But what do you say?

It’s Normal to Worry

I often have clients bring their phones into a coaching session with me.

They read their texts aloud, hoping I can shed some light on its meaning.

They want my advice on how to reply.

They’re afraid they might write the wrong thing and ruin everything.

Texting, unlike speech, leaves a permanent record.

Send a text that you haven’t thought through, and you can’t take it back.

It’s there on his phone forever.

Yet that doesn’t stop us from sending texts we later regret.

We have arguments via text. We confess our feelings via text. We push a joke too far.

And we’re left to mop up the mess our texts have made without being able to explain ourselves face-to-face.

So I understand why people read and reread a message before choosing a reply.

It’s my job to give you strategies to text with confidence.

He Sent a Confusing Text? Do This

When you receive a text from a guy that makes you feel uncomfortable…

You’re not sure if he’s mad or sarcastic or something else…

The most important thing you can do is pause.

Rapid-fire back-and-forth texting is fun…

But it backfires when you’re upset or confused or mad.

When you shoot off a text, you’re more likely to feed the flames than find out what’s burning.

So take a breath. Put your phone down. Get a drink of water.

(If he’s expecting you to text back right away, tell him to “hold on a sec” or “BRB.”)

Don’t let his text trigger you. Instead, ask yourself what the meta-message of the text might be.

Ask yourself, “What is he hoping to achieve by sending me that text?”

Is he trying to get you to do something? Make you feel something? Find out something?

If you responded exactly the way he expected or wanted, what would he be getting out of it?

Why This Works

One of the most common texting mistakes is shooting off a reply before thinking through what his text actually meant.

Misunderstandings are much more common with texting than with phone or in-person conversations.

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the way their biases shape how they read a text. They hear a specific tone or emphasis that the writer didn’t intend.

Men and women have different biases when it comes to how they write and read texts.

Men tend to see texts as tools.

They use their texts to accomplish something: demonstrate status, exchange information, move towards a goal.

Women can use texts in this way as well, but more frequently they use texts to create rapport.

They use texting to feel connected, share, and make the other person smile.

Because of this, a woman often interprets a man’s text as a commentary on her emotional connection.

A brusque text seems to say that he’s feeling cold towards her…

Whereas he didn’t intend his text to have any emotional content at all. He sent a short text because he was short on time.

When you ask yourself what a man might be trying to do in his text, you can see the text from more of a man’s perspective…

And that can help you decide what to do next.

Craft a Response

Once you think you know what he’s trying to accomplish with his text, ask yourself how confident you are.

Are you 80% confident that’s what he’s saying? Or only 30% confident?

If you’re fairly confident you know what he’s trying to do, ask yourself how you would respond if he said that to you directly. Use your answer to craft your response.

If you’re not all that confident, ask him a follow-up question to clarify. It’s perfectly okay to tell him that you’re not sure what he means.

It can be scary to ask him to clarify when you think he’s saying something you don’t want to hear, e.g., that he’s not sure about the relationship anymore.

But you can’t reply unless you know what’s going on.

As you write your reply, remember how easy it is to read a text the wrong way.

Use clear language and emojis to communicate tone.

Think about what you would say to him if this conversation were being held in person. Help him envision you saying it in your voice by making sure your text sounds like you.

And if you feel angry or upset with him, let him know you’ll get back to him.

The last place you want to have an argument is via text. Arguments escalate faster, and you end up feeling much more disconnected than if you were together in the same room.

When you approach texting with the philosophy that there’s always a good chance you’re misunderstanding each other, and if in doubt take a break, you don’t get as caught up in the drama.

People will always say stupid things via text. Texting is a new form of communication. We haven’t mastered it yet, individually or collectively.

As society evolves, we’ll get better at texting. We’ll develop new social rules regarding when and how it’s appropriate to text. We won’t have to make so much of it up from scratch.

In the meantime, be forgiving. Ask for clarification. Be as clear as you can.

And if possible?

Talk in person. 🙂