It’s too easy to use e-mail and text messaging to avoid the difficult conversations.
By Dave Boehi
Direct Link to FamilyLife Article: Avoiding the Tough Conversations
When I was a freshman in college—back when I was skinny and long-haired and
pretty inexperienced when it came to relationships—I met a girl named Nancy. We
sat together five days a week in a French class, and at some point we began
dating. I wouldn’t say it was serious, but between those dates and our class, we
certainly saw each other often.
A few months later the French class was over; we didn’t see each other as
often, and the attraction began to fade for me. It was time to be honest with
her and tell her that I enjoyed our friendship, but I didn’t see our dating
relationship going anywhere. Meet with her and have a mature, yet positive
Did I mention that, at age 18, I was also stupid and cowardly? We never had
that conversation. Instead, I just stopped calling her. Cut her off
My guess is that after a few weeks she figured a couple things out:
- I wasn’t going to ask her out on dates any more.
- I was a jerk who wasn’t worth dating, anyway.
Fast forward a few years, and I see that people today have not gained much in
wisdom. When it comes to breaking off a relationship, or working through a
conflict, today we have all kinds of new technology that helps us take the easy
If I was the same wimpy kid today and in the same situation, I’d probably
break up through e-mail or text messaging. In a recent Washington Post
article, writer Lisa Bonos laments that “technology has made
our breakups even worse.”
With so much of life happening on the
internet—and about 23 percent of couples now meeting
online—it’s inevitable that “I’m just not that into you” ends up in our
inboxes, sandwiched between bills, notes from our bosses and e-cards from Mom.
And it’s not unheard of for Facebook users to get news about their romances when
the other person changes his or her status from “in a relationship” to
“single”—without talking about it first.
A digital rejection can be efficient
and effective: The dumper can control the message; the dumpee can’t interrupt or
argue. No body language to misread, no tears to witness, no awkward hugs, and no
breakup sex. But we miss out on a lot when we outsource uncomfortable
conversations to our e-mail accounts. In exchange for efficiency and emotional
distance, we often give up a chance for real closure—and to show the other
person that you care for them and respect the effort you put into the
Avoiding difficult conversations
A few months ago I wrote some articles about how our digital life is replacing
conversation. Our digital devices improve our lives in many ways, and they can
be a boon to communication if used wisely. But it’s also easy to become so
obsessed with being connected to your friends or to information on the internet
that you ignore the people you are with at the time. And it’s especially easy
to use e-mail and text messaging to avoid the difficult conversations,
disagreements, or conflicts.
This applies to all of us, not just singles. We face a disagreement or
conflict with a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or a spouse, and we look
for the easy way out by avoiding a face-to-face conversation.
Let me ask you: How often have you tried to resolve a disagreement or
conflict with someone by e-mail or text message? How has that worked for
I’ve found that when I try to resolve something through e-mail, it’s easy to
misunderstand each other. Words are misinterpreted or attached with emotions
that were not intended. You miss the facial expressions, the body language, and
the tone of voice that communicate just as strongly as the actual words.
It’s interesting to read some of the Scripture passages about resolving
conflict in light of today’s technology. For example, 1 Peter 3:8-9 tells us,
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and
humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a
blessing instead …” (NASB).
What impresses me here is that it’s very difficult to communicate a
spirit of harmony, sympathy, kindheartedness, and humility through e-mail or
text messaging. These qualities—so essential to resolving a disagreement
or conflict—are best conveyed in person.
If you are the type of person who instinctively avoids any type of
confrontation, perhaps you’ve settled into this bad habit of using electronic
communication to avoid real conversation. Perhaps you’re doing it with your
Let me encourage you to step into the relationship rather than away
from it. Be courageous.
A real relationship requires heart-to-heart communication. And that won’t
happen in an e-mail.
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.