…And How to Hone Your Interpersonal Skills!
By Victor Moreau
The average Millennial exchanges an average of 67 text messages per day, according to Business Insider. About 97% of Americans use their texting app at least once a day, making it the most widely-used feature on a smartphone. People like to text, but is there a negative to all of that time spent typing in lieu of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication?
Some people think so.
One person, in particular, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, is a leading researcher looking into the impact of texting. Turkle believes that too much texting can have a negative impact on the interpersonal development of kids. An example she gives compares an apology given between two people face-to-face and a text apology.
In the example, she describes all of the emotion, tension, and subtleties involved in a face-to-face apology:
A full-scale apology means I know I’ve hurt you, I get to see that in your eyes. You get to see that I’m uncomfortable, and with that, the compassion response kicks in. There are many steps and they’re all bypassed when we text.
There’s so much involved in that one little interaction including the chance to know and feel empathy, decoding the inflection in a genuine apology (as opposed to a compulsory one) and the emotional cues necessary to understanding the subtleties of emotional response. Of course, it’s a lot messier than sending off a one-line text, but the neatness of a text eschews valuable communication and interpersonal training. Especially in the formative years.
Sharpen Interpersonal Communication Skills
Whether you agree that the overuse of texting can negatively impact interpersonal skills, one thing we can all agree on is that texting isn’t going away. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle, but there are things you can do to be a more effective communicator.
Aside from just taking a break to have a real verbal conversation, here are some other things that can help texters young and old keep those communication skills sharp:
1. Download a speech app
Seriously. If your primary mode of communication is typed text, you’re missing out on a dynamic method of communication full of subtleties and nuances. Even something seemingly minuscule such as inflection – modulation of pitch or intonation to express tension, mood, number, person gender, etc. – can completely change the meaning of what is being vocally said.
SpeechTutor is one particular app that comes to mind. Not only does it show you tongue placement and positioning, it can also give the user a better understanding of tone and meaning in order to make them a more effective speaker.
2. Free write
Not the same thing as texting or emailing. This is writing that you do for yourself. Honest and messy. How else are you supposed to gain a better understanding of your inner voice and how you might sound to others?
I covered free-writing tools in a previous post. Most are free, but you don’t even need a site or a specialized app to jot down your inner thoughts and, perhaps most importantly, learn how to talk to yourself to strengthen how you might speak with others.
3. Learn to Listen
Volumes have been written on this. An entire post could cover this better than a simple paragraph, but it bears mentioning. One of the best ways to be an effective communicator is to just not talk so much.
This doesn’t run counter to the first two ideas because there are two roles that typically happen in effective communication: speaker and listener.
These roles alternate, but taking a moment to just listen will allow you to witness and even experience empathy (crucial for diplomatic discourse), adopt encouraging body language as well as identify it in others, and it may even expand your vocabulary to hear what someone else has to say.
Is it really a problem when we’re talking about text streamlining interpersonal interactions? Certainly, there are merits to being able to respond to someone in due time and on your own terms that you simply can’t manage in a real-time, face-to-face conversation.
However, until we evolve to where we no longer need to feel emotions or efficiently communicate with one another, interpersonal communication skills are indispensable.
Victor Moreau is an ancient oneironaut clothed in the flesh of a mortal man. He enjoys reading sci-fi horror, collecting obscure indie comics and studying languages. When he is not working on his own short stories, he’s writing for Tech Life.