Carrier Pigeon vs. Text Message: Does the Delivery Method of Your Message Matter

By: Andrea Serie

Darren*, age 41, and a business partner of our team at DoubleDown, had been dating a woman 12 years his junior for the past two years.  His partner was mature, successful and worldly, so the age gap hadn’t mattered.  Until amidst conversations of engagement, she broke up with him via text message.  Completely bewildered, he initiated meeting in person or at minimum a phone conversation to discuss her change of heart.  She refused and would only communicate via text.

When he shared the news during our most recent lunch meeting, the table was divided. Half of us were shocked by her lack of respect for a man she claimed to love. However, the other half of the team had a completely opposite perspective.  They questioned what difference does it make if the message comes via carrier pigeon or text message? Either way, she broke up with him! This lead to a spirited discussion around the question: Does the delivery method of how we communicate effect our message?  Is technology changing the unspoken rules of adult interaction?

Matters of Love: When the delivery method becomes as much of a statement as the message itself

Break-ups are not newsworthy, as people’s feelings and circumstances can always change.  However, the dismissive method is what makes it surprising, sensational and gives us something to talk about. Darren’s story reminded me of the famous Sex in the City episode when Burger broke up with Carrie on a post-it note.  The text is the 2019 version of a post-it…short, impersonal, and to the point.

Avoidance techniques (whether text, post-it or the original Dear John letter) have always existed, however, with smart phones being tethered to everyone’s hands, they are simply on the rise.  According to Bustle in a survey of 500 people about texting etiquette, 57 percent of Americans admitted to breaking up with someone over text message, and a whopping 69 percent of millenials said they had been on the receiving end of breakup text before.

After a negative occurrence, we often look for a teaching moment as a silver lining. People have blind spots as to their own flaws or the ugliness in a relationship. A breakup conversation shines a light on that darkness.  While painful, it does present the opportunity to learn and avoid the same mistakes in the next relationship. With a break-up via text, that education has been removed.  It also leaves the person on the receiving end feeling disposable and confused due to a lack of proper closure.  The delivery method becomes as much of a hurtful statement, as the message itself.

“Avoidance techniques like ghosting and break-up texts are maddening because they inspire lots of head-scratching and replaying possible mistakes we’ve made.  However, I love to offer my clients that someone who’s going to vanish or hide behind a screen actually gives you PERFECT closure,” said Claire Byrne, POOSH’s resident Heartbreak Coach.  “What more do you need to know about someone who won’t give you the gracious respect you deserve by having a vulnerable, graceful, albeit difficult conversation?  Closure doesn’t have to come from someone else.  You always get to give yourself the closure you’re craving, by shifting your mindset around what unfolded.”

The Work Place: When a digital exit closes the door on future opportunities

Using technology as an evasion technique is not only rearing its ugly head in matters of the heart, but also in the workplace.  Although, proper etiquette suggests walking into your boss’ office to resign face-to face, employees are sending emails, texts and in some dramatic scenarios, tweets. This type of unprofessional communication rules out the opportunity to resolve the challenges leading to the resignation. Perhaps the superior would counter with more money or discuss more autonomy if these were the nagging issues.

A digital exit also closes the door on a positive referral for future employment, the chance to return to the company in a different role or a business partnership in the future. A resignation without proper two-week notice shows a complete disregard for projects underway and a general disrespect to other team members who will likely cover the extra work until the position has been filled.

“If a company has showed faith in your abilities by giving you an opportunity to gain experience, this is an extremely negative way to exit,” said Jaime Boyle Ibrahim, a Creative Director at a New York City consulting agency. “As a boss, if I allocate my time and energy to train someone and they leave in such an abrupt manner, I would not serve as a reference in the future.”

By the conclusion of lunch, we agreed to disagree. A few of us were still adamant if someone wants to exit, bid farewell, say “Thank you next” and don’t give the cold delivery a second thought. The outcome is still the same.

The rest of us felt although a potentially confrontational conversation is uncomfortable; it is best to take the high road.  Delivering your message by looking someone in the eye can preserve your reputation, their feelings and the dignity of a relationship that once was significant.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle. Why severe a relationship by hiding behind a digital armor, when you can part ways peacefully?

As for Darren…he is currently single and available on Bumble.

*Names have been changed to for identity protection

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