The Etiquette Rules of Texting


The convenience of texting is something we have quickly gotten used to. 

The etiquette guidelines for communicating via text are mostly situational, but there are some steadfast, common sense rules for when not to do it:

  • When you have a lot to say.
  • When you are angry or emotional.
  • When you are announcing something really important such as the signing of a contract or breaking off a relationship.
  • During the night when another person may be sleeping.
  • Never text at gatherings, meetings, or when on a date or dining!  You're with who you’re with.
  • Avoid texting when you have imbibed with alcohol.
  • And for safety's sake, never text while driving or walking on a crowded street!

For some folks, being told they shouldn't send a text in certain situations leaves them wondering how they should communicate.  To them I say, "Use your voice."  And if ever a text message goes awry, find a way to speak in person or by phone.

The tried and true methods of face-to-face and phone communications are still valid today, though sometimes brushed aside.  Each of us is "busy," but this is no excuse for not recognizing when a voice might communicate better than a typed message.

Texting for Business Purposes

How do you handle yourself in situations when a phone call would be more appropriate?  Satisfying a customer or client is always a top priority in business, but to hold up your end of it may require asking for a phone conversation. 

If a customer insists on texting only, you may feel faced with a dilemma: give in to only texts and feel demeaned, or insist on a phone call and become a nuisance.

When a phone call feels necessary to you, it is important to insist.  Miscommunications in the business world can cost you a sale, or worse, a client.

  • A pleasant way of insisting: “I really enjoy texting with you, John, but I have something that I must speak to you about.  It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”
  • Some situations may need a sympathetic approach: “John, I understand this must be frustrating, and I’d feel the same if I were in your shoes.  Could we have a quick conversation to resolve it?”

When you must text while doing business, remember to:

  • Keep it professional.  No emoticons, abbreviations, or misspelled words.
  • Use complete sentences.
  • Take your time and be clear.  Once you send it, you can't take it back.
  • Proofread your message and make certain of its clarity and good grammar.
  • Verify the recipient(s) before sending!

In Your Personal Life

With friends, or in a dating relationship, you will be texting at some point, and often every day.  You want to be mindful of manners, but determining the boundaries of any relationship requires in-person communication and that can’t always be face to face.  Phones are necessary.

When romance - or the possibility of it - is involved, beware if the apple of your eye only wants to text.  Unfortunately, this is a sign that he or she is not interested in you.

When you text, keep these guidelines in mind for a smooth relationship:

  • Define your relationship in person.  Always!
  • Avoid gossiping and sharing confidential information.
  • Keep pictures modest.  You never know where they will go.  Break-ups do occur, even to the most committed couples.
  • Avoid sharing special messages with friends.
  • Flirting is always a choice and can break into sexting.  Use your best judgment.
  • If you have a strong emotion to share, make it a point to talk by phone or in person, not in text.

The Bottom Line

Generally, in professional and personal life it’s helpful to remember that texting doesn’t let you hear a person’s voice and its tone.  Text messaging can leave a lot of room for unintended communications and over and under interpretation.

Clear and appropriate communication is always the goal when text messaging.

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