5 Things You Should Never Say Over Text, According to Therapists
Make sure to think twice before hitting that send button.
Many of us prefer to use texting as our main form of communication because of how quick and easy it is. But you may want to think twice before pressing that send button. While there are many positive factors to texting, Sarah Swenson, LMHVC, a licensed therapist who works with couples around the world, also tells Best Life that most misunderstandings "derive from misinterpretations of texts." So even if you're not sending anything too serious, don't let your words get lost in translation. Talking to therapists and other relationship experts, we got insight into some of the things you should never say over text. Read on to find out what is best left unsaid, at least when it comes to texting.
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"What do you mean by that?"
If you want to plan a hangout with your friend or send them a funny meme over text, go right ahead. But light conversations such as these are probably where you should limit things.
"Texting is not a place to have a long drawn-out conversation with another person. Too much can be lost in translation," cautions Kali Wolken, LMHC, a licensed career and mental health counselor working with The Lookout Point in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
If you find yourself typing "What do you mean by that?" you should reevaluate and move the conversation to in-person communication whenever possible.
"When we are talking with a person face-to-face, we are able to pick up on all the communication pieces—verbal and non-verbal. This lowers the chance of misinterpreting something, and we can also quickly ask for clarification if we feel confused," Wolken explains. "While we can say 'What do you mean by that?' in a text response, the delays and (again) lack of nonverbals going through in a text can lead to more problems in understanding from the texter."
"I'm breaking up with you."
We've all probably been on one end of a breakup text at some point in time. But if you were the person sending such a message, you should avoid doing so again in the future.
Haley Riddle, LPCA, a licensed therapist working with Mynd Psychiatry, says breaking up with someone over text should never be considered an option. "Deciding to text your partner to end the relationship can be hurtful and disrespectful," she explains.
According to Riddle, many people revert to choosing digital communication for breakups as an attempt to avoid conflict or show their own emotions. But she says texting something like "I'm breaking up with you" is often seen by the recipient "as informal and impersonal" and can also have a negative impact for the sender.
"Texting is not the equivalent [of] having a conversation in person," Riddle says. "When one decides to end the relationship over text, they are not getting full closure due to leaving a lot open for misinterpretation."
"I love you." (for the first time)
When it comes to texts you shouldn't send a significant other, it doesn't have to necessarily be negative.
According to Chris Rabanera, LMFT, a licensed therapist working in online therapy and the founder of TheBaseEQ, you should never tell your partner "I love you" for the first time through a text message. "This is the wrong way to use texting," he advises.
Instead, Rabanera says that "big moment conversations" like this should only be done in person. "When you say something like this to a person, you want to be present," he explains. "You want to see their reaction. You want to be there in person with them. You want the full experience."
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Most of us have probably shot off a quick "whatever" text out of frustration more times than we can even remember. But Aditya Kashyap Mishra, a relationship expert working with MoodFresher, says this is the one word she advises people to never send in a text message. "This is a surefire way to end a conversation. It's a way of saying you don't care about the other person or the conversation."
We usually send a "whatever" text in moments of anger, but Heidi McBain, LMFT, an online therapist and mom coach, says anger is a secondary emotion that should not be shared with others via text because it doesn't actually address what issue is upsetting you. "When emotional reactivity is high, we can text things we don't mean without time and space to filter and process them first," McBain explains.
Anything tied to negative emotions.
When it comes down to it, you should avoid sending any text that "has a negative emotion attached to it," according to Michael Morris, a former therapist working in family counseling and the current editorial director for Rough and Tumble Gentlemen. "Any expression of disappointment, anger, resentment, or fear are almost always better discussed via direct communication," he says, such as face-to-face or on the phone.
"There's a sense of urgency tied to negative emotions [and], the need to express those feelings can be intense," Morris acknowledges. "Oftentimes we forget that there's someone on the other end [of the text], who is hurt, surprised, or angry by our words, and seeing people makes us more polite. People are usually much more respectful and deliberate during an in-person conversation, and those are the 'guardrails' that keep us from saying things that are unnecessarily hurtful or jagged."
Heather Wilson, LCSW, the executive director at Epiphany Wellness, even goes as far as to advise against sharing any strong feelings or opinions over text to further avoid miscommunication. "If you're planning on sharing something that could be construed as negative or offensive, it's best to do so in person. This way, you can gauge the other person's reaction and explain your feelings more clearly."