The series of texts started at 10 a.m.
–Good morning, beautiful! How are you?
–Well then, okay … Good luck!
By the time my friend discovered them, it was 4 p.m. – still in the middle of the workday. “So in the span of six hours, this guy assumed I had ignored him and then rejected him,” she said. “Never mind that I was at work the whole time!”
Texting while dating has always been subject to misinterpretation. We all have different styles and timing expectations. For example, some people think responding to a text within a couple of hours is perfectly reasonable, while others expect your attention in minutes. It’s even more emotionally fraught during the “get to know you” phase when your texting partner’s silence can feel like a blow-off.
All that said, one of the biggest texting red flags is impatience. Not only does it show a lack of confidence, it’s disrespectful of you and the way you communicate. Even if you cater to your eager texter at first, their constant “What are you up to?” pings eventually will make you cringe. That’s not a good foundation to start a relationship.
Here are some tips on how to manage early texting:
1) Set your boundaries
Is texting frowned upon at work? Does it drive you batty if you’re trying to eliminate distractions while focusing on a project? Maybe you shut down screens at 8 p.m. or go tech-free on Sundays. Or you want to focus on your kids and can’t chat until they go to bed. Let your match know! “Sorry, I can’t really text during the workday. I have more free time in the evenings.”
2) Acknowledge their texts
One of the worst parts about texting is assuming the other person is ignoring you on purpose. This can be agony if you’re interpreting their non-response as an indication of their interest in you. It’s easy to forget they might be on a flight or in the middle of ordering lunch and then had to run into a meeting. Maybe they’re in a yoga class. Or their phone died. Since you know how awful this might feel, it’s a nice idea to acknowledge someone else’s texts. “Got your text. Busy in a meeting. Look forward to chatting soon.”
3) Add some sugar
Texting can feel impersonal sometimes. That’s because it is! You can’t see people’s facial expressions or body language. You can’t hear the tone of their voice. And if you’re just getting to know someone, you don’t have a history to know that they’re just really busy and that their silence has nothing to do with how much they like you. To avoid appearing curt or disinterested, it can’t hurt to add a few smiley face emojis. Also, be liberal with reassurances and “TTYL” (for “talk to you later”).
4) Save long discussions for the phone
What’s worse than receiving “What do you like to do for fun?” when you’re swamped? Being expected to answer it! Save texting for quick hellos or exchanging information, such as where to meet, or confirming plans. So before you type, “Yoga, volunteering, and long walks on the beach,” text back: “I think it would be more fun to chat in real time. You up for a phone call?”
5) Get back to people when you say you will
If you say “Chat soon,” it’s really nice to follow up with “What a crazy day! Hope you had a good one.”
Ultimately, as you get to know someone, you’ll find your texting groove. But until you’re a couple, pay attention to how someone reacts to your texting style. If you’re constantly being accused of neglecting them via text, you’ll likely be accused of neglecting them in real life, too. If your match can’t chill out, that’s a sign to drop out of the conversation.
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.