Texting is the New Black

“Texting has taken over”

When I was 13 I would sit for long hours in our rec room listening to Journey and talking to my friends on the (rotary) telephone. My kids don’t do that. They text. I read recently that many young people now consider a phone call to be intrusive. They even view it as presumptuous- for the caller to assume they are worth the time. I have even heard people talk about voicemail messages with disdain. “Why waste my time when there is texting?” Indeed! Why use your voice when you can bang out a message with your thumbs?

Texting has taken over as a dominant method of communicating. Although it is most prevalent among people in their teens and twenties, you don’t have to be a teenager; texting is for everyone. My mother recently sent me this first text: “Hey Tommy! It’s me, Mom. :)” (quoted with the author’s permission.)

Text messages are an efficient way to communicate basic information, like agreeing to change where to meet, or to say you are running a few minutes behind. But the killjoy in me can’t help bristling at the drawbacks. I doubt kids are getting the same chance to develop social skills, as reliant as they are on texting. I see people texting while driving. That’s just dumb! I know they are not paying proper attention by how severely they startle when I blare my horn at them. And some types of content are difficult in this medium. Sarcasm and attempted humor are harder than you might think to convey without tone, not to mention facial expression. For example, do you believe I blare my horn at texting drivers? There is a reason Louis C.K. doesn’t text jokes to his audience—he is way funnier in person. It is also risky to have a serious disagreement or try to convey heavy emotion lacking visual and auditory clues to help decipher what it is the person might really be feeling and trying to say.

What about texting in the real estate world?

David, Matt and I prefer a text over phone call for a lot of things because much of it is routine. Texting saves a lot of time. Matt points out that people sometimes open conversations through text that are likely to grow into large discussions more suited to talking, such as “how did the home inspection go?” The technical term for texting is Short Message Service, or SMS. In other words, keep it brief. Also, real estate transactions are not always routine. Buying or selling a house is kind of a big deal, with big feelings. I have been in situations where a client or agent was accustomed to texting with me and continued to do so after the conversation changed complexion, when they had crossed over into hostility. I have seen firsthand how continuing to text in these situations can leave people even more angry and confused. Reliance on texting has detonated many real estate transactions.

When I sense that someone is angry, I try to give my thumbs a rest and pick up the phone. Unfortunately, people often don’t take the call, in spite of my suspicions that they are still have the phone in their hand. There are plausible reasons for not picking up. They might not be in a position to talk. Also, texting is far easier than live confrontation. It is easier than trying to articulate or convey feelings with your voice doing that funny thing it does when you are upset. It is preferable to uncomfortable silences or hard questions. Yet those are the things that very often need to be slogged through to reach deeper understanding and develop better connections with the people you are working with.

Notice when your finger hovers over the send button for any period of time before touching it. If some subliminal force is trying to signal that this text might be a bad idea by hijacking your finger, you might want to ask yourself if a call would be better. Chances are good that a phone call or in-person meeting will yield benefits, worth the extra effort and worth a little discomfort.

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