On Textual Communication

As a general rule, I am much more confident at expressing myself through textual communication rather than verbally; however, I recently had a terrifying experience with my preferred communication style that called into question using this form of communication for all dialogues in my life.

The delivery method: text message.
The message: something secret that I decided to share.
My personal experience once the message was sent: terror, as I didn’t know if what I sent would be accepted, or if I would get a response, or if the message would even be delivered properly.

I recognized, while I was agonisingly trying to not focus on whether or not a response would come, that some of these feelings would be present if I were to say what I wrote out loud instead of sending a message – definitely the portion regarding acceptance and what type of response I would receive – but if I had said it out loud, all anxiety about the technical aspect of my message would not have been there. I would know my words had been received. I would still feel exposed, but at least I wouldn’t have gone through that moment alone. I might have felt a strong urge to flee the situation once the words were out, but as it stood, that is exactly what I did while alone – I sent the message and immediately packed myself up to move to a different space so I wouldn’t sit and wait and wonder what the other person was experiencing at the other end of the message, or wonder if they even received it.

There are pros and cons in playing to my strengths when choosing which way to communicate, but I think I have learned that communicating anything that matters highly to me and requires a response is best done verbally, in person. Interestingly enough, that was my third favourite option – after text message, I considered writing a note. With a note, though, I wouldn’t have a record of the exact words I used (unless I made a copy, which I have done before, believe it or not).

That might be what one of my main problems with verbal communication is – there is no record, unless it happens to be recorded somehow. It sometimes takes me time to process words, as they are such a powerful vehicle, and when I go over them in my mind, they get jumbled and start to shift their order and slip away. What remains tends to be how the words made me feel, instead of what they meant, and sometimes I cannot identify why I felt the way I did about a situation because whatever words impacted me have faded, leaving only the emotion they created.

Tone in textual communication is highly difficult to convey, however, so the words inevitably become changed by the perspective of the reader. When I write my posts, I feel very neutral in my tone, unless I have freshly encountered an emotional explosion; but even if that is so, writing tends to calm me down into a neutrality – I might still feel the emotion that provoked the post, but I don’t hear my words in my head in a scared, angry or elated way. I just hear the words as I type them, as though I am dictating a letter and trying to be clear in my delivery. I just want to put my words down. Sharing them in this way gives me a way to look back on them, which is not a habit in which I usually involve myself. Most of what I have ever written has been recycled, burned or is trapped on three and a half inch floppies that have long since been thrown away. Many items exist in files on memory drives, never to be reopened. But these words are in the light of day. I don’t expect them to flourish, or become anything more than digits on a web page, but I am excited that I am making a choice to not hide them. I have done a lot of hiding in my life, and I no longer want that for myself.

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2 thoughts on “On Textual Communication

  1. I so relate to this! I have such a difficult time expressing myself verbally and I get really nervous and usually end up fucking up whatever I’m trying to say. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who can either interpret what I’m trying to say or will give me time to thoughtfully write out my feelings and read them once I’m done.

    I have done the same thing with text message before too. And it’s an awful experience sitting and staring at your phone, borderline panic attack mode waiting for a response and then your phone dings and your heart picks up speed and you’re almost too scared to read it because if its bad you don’t want to know. It’s kind of nice knowing I’m not the only person like this, honestly.

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