You’d think it would be so easy.
If someone texts you, text them back.
If someone calls you, call them back.
If someone DMs you, message them back.
So why, then, have so few men got the message?
Angelika was sure her new love interest was ignoring her. She’d left him a number of messages on Facebook, and he never replied.
Lola wrote lovely texts to her guy, full of exclamation points and emojis, and all she ever got back were an “ok” or “sure” or “c u then.”
Callie would call her guy and leave a detailed message, only to get a phone call from him an hour later asking, “What’s up?” She’d have to repeat herself all over again, because he never listened to her messages.
These are examples of digital miscommunication…
And they could be needlessly sabotaging your relationship.
The Good Old Days of Communication
Thirty years ago the world was so simple.
If a guy wanted to get in contact with you, he had to pick up the phone.
You could only answer that phone if you were also home.
Then came email…
And lovebirds could write long letters to each other without needing a single postage stamp.
Landlines and email were manageable.
Until smartphones arrived.
Now you have the choice of contacting each other via text, email, or phone…
In addition to Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, SnapChat, Skype, Zoom, Twitter, Instagram, and a zillion other apps.
No wonder communication has become so difficult!
Digital Body Language
Erica Dhawan is the author of Digital Body Language, a guide to the 1001 pitfalls that can trip you up when you’re trying to communicate over Slack, Zoom, email, text, you name it.
If in-person communication can be confusing, digital communication is even more mystifying.
We don’t have any of the body language signals we usually rely on to guess the true meaning of someone’s words.
All we’ve got are punctuation, syntax, emojis, memes…
And we don’t even agree about the meaning of those!
Dhawan found that we use digital communication differently depending on gender, generation, and geography.
- Men tend to communicate in a way that’s more practical and blunt. Women tend to use softer language sprinkled liberally with emojis and exclamation points.
- Digital natives tend to prefer text to in-person meetings or phone calls. Older generations will still pick up the phone and feel offended if they don’t get a call back.
- Western cultures are low-context, which means that communication tends to be direct and explicit. Eastern cultures are high-context, which means that communication tends to be indirect and rely more on what is not said than what is said.
So what does this mean for women like Angelika, Lola, and Callie?
Were they misreading what their guys were communicating?
Talk to Him Where He’s At
Maybe you’ve had the experience of leaving your guy a message on an app or social media site…
And he never gets back to you.
It’s as if he can’t be bothered to read it.
Is he being rude…
Or is this just NOT his preferred way to communicate?
Few of us take the time to ask a new friend or love interest how they like to communicate.
We assume that they communicate the same way we do. They’re on Facebook as much as we are, or they check their Skype as often as we do.
Despite the many ways we have to communicate, most of us gravitate to just a few channels. We miss messages sent to us in other forms.
So ask your guy:
“How do you prefer to communicate?”
Make Allowances for GuySpeak
Many men see messages in purely practical terms.
They don’t see the need for a lot of, “How are you?? I’ve been missing you!!! <heart emoji>”
Their texts sound curt and cold because that’s their style. It’s not personal.
Tell your guy that sometimes you can’t read the tone of his texts. You can’t tell if he’s being angry or sarcastic or he’s just in a hurry.
Let him know that a happy face or a thumbs up or some other sign would help you feel reassured.
Get to Know His Habits
There are two types of people in the world:
People who’ll pick up the phone when it rings…
And people who consider it incredibly rude to call someone when a simple text would do.
Which one is your guy?
It seems to go without saying that a phone call is the most considerate way to communicate with a loved one, but for many digital natives, phone calls are an unwelcome interruption.
Talk to your guy about how he feels about phone calls. Does he appreciate it when you leave a verbal message, or would he rather you just send him a text?
Digital confusion is here to stay, but we can make the effort to get to know each other’s digital quirks and work around them.
It’s just like learning to translate between languages: his and yours!