Arguing over text message or email

With modern technology, there’s always the potential for misunderstanding, and never more so than in the hands of a bickering couple. So why do so many of us allow our arguments to be played out over texts, emails and social media?

Technology makes arguing easier, though rarely any more effective. If you come home to a pile of dishes your partner promised would be cleaned, the first reaction might be to vent your frustration instantly with an angry text. If a final demand notice arrives while your other half is at work, you might not want to wait to let them know what a downer it’s put on your day.

One of the biggest problems with arguments over text or email is that it’s very hard to get the tone right. Tone is often difficult to convey and easy to misinterpret.

Communicating with the written word can also lend itself to passive aggressive conversations, where one partner insists everything is fine in a spoken conversation and then allows the real issue to come out through texts or emails. This can be frustrating for the other partner if they want to talk things through.

Some tips

Think about the times you and your partner have made up after a row. What ended the argument – a knowing smile; a hug; a cup of tea? If you’re apart, you won’t always be able to make up like this, but it can often help just to hear each other’s voices on the phone.

Face-to-face communication isn’t always possible and telephone call don’t always work. If you find that your partner deflects difficult subjects or shuts down on the phone, or you find it too emotional to say what you mean, email can be a valuable tool.

A reasoned email can sometimes be the easiest way to express and acknowledge different points of view. Writing things down gives you a chance to stop and think, and get your point across clearly.

It’s very important to allow yourself a cooling off period. Don’t send important emails when you’re still feeling upset, as you risk making impulsive comments that you may later regret.

Instead, try to list the points you’d like your partner to consider. By sending them in an email you’re giving each other time to think about the reasons for being upset as well as ways to resolve them. You can then try to have a calm discussion about the issues on the phone or next time you meet, rather than a full-on argument.

Remember that timing is crucial. If you send an email about last night’s bust-up and it hits your partner’s inbox during a hectic day at work, it may just make the situation feel harder to deal with. Pick your moment, and don’t hit the send button until you’re confident they’ll have the time and space to deal with it.

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