The age of technology and, more specifically, the popularity of cellphones has led to a rapid increase in reliance on text messages for communication. Although text messaging is discreet, quick and convenient, it isn’t always easy to convey emotions without face-to-face interaction. If you’re faced with a girl who is upset or angry but your only immediate means of calming her down is through text messaging, there are important approaches to take into consideration. This can enable you to more effectively help her calm down, without the advantage of providing a hug or a smile.
Validate her feelings. Validation does not imply that you agree with the reasons why the girl is angry or upset, explains Dr. Anthony Ferraioli in the online publication “How To Help Someone Calm Down.” Instead, you are agreeing that she is angry, upset, unhappy in some way, but not giving your opinion about the cause. One of the advantages of text messaging is that you don’t have to be immediately present with the individual in a situation that at times may be uncomfortable. You can validate her feelings by texting, “You seem to be very angry at your sister for not showing up to your birthday party.” This approach can let her know that you are hearing what she is communicating and she has your attention, even if you aren’t in the same room.
Avoid interrupting or attempting to change the subject. You’re having a significant conversation over text messaging, but the rules that apply to in-person communication also apply to texting. Interruptions or mentioning something off-topic can suggest that you aren’t listening, or worse, that you aren’t interested in what she is communicating. The fact that you are limited to text also eliminates your ability to communicate interest nonverbally, through leaning forward, making eye contact or nodding. In text-speak, communicating that you are following the conversation can be accomplished by asking questions at times when a natural silence would occur in conversation. Questions such as “How does that make you feel?” may seem like a cliché, but can also be a good way to get more information that you might be missing because you are texting, not talking.
Ask her what she can or will do to calm herself. Because the girl is left to her own devices, her calming will need to come from within, but you can provide support for her efforts and make suggestions if necessary. If the girl seems to be in an emotionally heightened state, provide reassurance by texting her, “You’ll be okay, sit down and breathe slowly.” Remain available if possible, through text, letting her know that you are still there and just a text message away. Ask the girl what you can do to help her calm down, and use her suggestions to the extent possible through texting.
Compliment the girl through text for her ability to calm down in the face of an emotionally adverse situation. This is as close as you can get to providing a virtual hug and can reinforce her ability to remain calm. Complimenting her also demonstrates that you are a source of support for her, even if it isn’t in person, and that you are willing to virtually walk her through tough times. Remain brief in your text communication, because the inherent lack of nonverbal cues can lead to miscommunication, explains psychologist Randi Gunther in the online publication “Can Text Messages Damage Intimate Communication?” If you’re unsure whether what you’re conveying via text is clear, hold on to it until you both are in the same room.
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