I have a great idea. If you disagree with your girlfriend’s decision or opinion on something, why don’t you write her a long email outlining your stance and why you think it’s right?
After all, who wants to waste time having a mature discussion when you can just make your point without the interruption of an actual conversation! And never mind that females, notorious for picking apart every non-verbal signal you do or don’t send, also tend to read into the words you use—reading between those written lines.
I know: guys are pretty straightforward with words. You prefer to use words that you actually mean, as you’ve noted in this column before. But even the rules of email-writing in the business world will tell you that some things should never be handled over email, especially if there’s anger or frustration involved. Those stark words on a screen cannot convey the tone of your voice, the expression on your face, or the softness in your eyes. Emails can come across as cold and unfeeling, especially if the reader feels hurt or offended on the other side.
If you want to increase the potential for even greater misunderstanding between two people on an important, complicated, or relationship issue, then email is a good way to do it.
And so is texting, by the way. In fact, texting is a great way to discuss a relationship status and even break up! I once texted a guy I’d been getting to know to ask if we could get together and talk. He immediately assumed I didn’t want to continue the relationship (talk about reading between the lines). Well, he was right, although I was shocked he had made that assumption. He was a great guy and I wanted things to end well. I planned to talk to him in person so I could be kind and respectful, so he could see and hear my sincerity in expressing how much I had enjoyed our time together. But he texted me back to say we didn’t need to talk further. In fact, he refused to communicate with me again.
His behavior was disappointing and created negative feelings I previously didn’t have. I hadn’t intended to communicate something so delicate and important over text, but he gave me no choice.
And while we’re on the subject of texting and reading between the lines, let’s talk about those emoticons.
What exactly are you trying to communicate when you send that kissing face to a woman you’re still getting to know and haven’t yet kissed? Are you dropping hints that it’s about time? Or are you just flirting and being funny?
I suppose the only thing worse than texted words that can’t explain themselves with supplemental nonverbal signals are yellow cartoon smiley faces, all puckered up or gazing out at us through heart-shaped eyes. Maybe those faces should be self-explanatory. And maybe those long texts or black-and-white email messages should be too.
But it seems that we women just can’t get past the unspoken words to understand what’s truly being said.
Check out more posts in the Dear Adam/Eve series here.