When Texts and Emails Go Wrong

Have you ever had a discussion over text or email that went bad, where the person totally took you out of context or totally misunderstood you- and it left you thinking that if the conversation would have happened in person, the discussion wouldn’t have ended in a full-blown argument or hurt feelings?

Communication is key. It’s the only way that we humans are able to do anything together. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, so to say, is the father of putting a percentage on how much we as human communicate. His final conclusion of how much we interpret messages by others is 7% verbal, 38% vocal and 55% visual. So, in essence, 93% of our communication is nonverbal. Whoa, that’s a high number. And because we live in this digital age, most of our communication is going to be done nonverbally. So, no wonder some of our text or email discussions end in badly.

I want to give some useful tips on how we can avoid text and email discussions going badly, but before I do, I want to bring God into this. God is a God of communication. When we look at his words to men like Moses, Adam, Noah, Jacob, Caleb, the major and minor prophets- and even though angels to women like Mary and the mother of Samson- God communicated and He communicated clearly. God doesn’t just ramble off at the mouth. When He speaks it’s with purpose, clarity, and it means we are to do something about what He is saying. So, since our God is a God of clear and purposeful communication, then we should be people of clear and purposeful communication.

King Solomon’s Proverbs are full of communication principles that we should be following. And, I’d also like to point out that our communication should be honesty, rooted in love, peace, understanding, firmness when need be, and it should be for the upliftment of mankind. It should also be unwavering, not always changing to the point where it is misleading people.

Now, back to those texts and emails that have gone bad. When we’re talking to a person face to face, we’re able to see people facial expressions, hear the tone of their voice, and quickly clarify misunderstandings. People can get lost in long detailed messages, where misunderstandings quickly brew up, which leads to hurt, anger and division.

We’re all adults here, so I believe we need to be mature about getting understanding of what people say and do before we draw conclusions. I’ve found that these techniques have helped me clarify what some is writing me over text or email- where I can easily misunderstand them.


1.     Don’t be passive, ask questions-

We’re all broken people with hurts and trigger points. But even in our brokenness we need to speak up. If someone writes something that you don’t understand, say: “So, if I understand you correctly, what you are saying is XYZ.” Or, “Can you explain further what you’re trying to say.”

Allow the other person to type out what they truly mean before jumping in with a lot of text. Listen, listen, and listen to what they are trying to say, then prayerfully respond.

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.
— Proverbs 18:13 (NLT)
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
— James 1:19-20 (NLT)

2.     Use the right words-

People don’t like to be talked at, they like to be talked to. So, use the right words, use inclusive words like ‘we’ and ‘us,’ instead of you.

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.
— Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)

3.     Don’t be too serious-

Use happy emojis when explaining some details. And if appropriate, have a sense of humor in the conversation to put the other person at ease- especially if they are feeling hurt.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously - take God seriously.
— Micah 6:8 (MSG)

4.     Always be honest-

Be open and honest about what you’re thinking and feeling. While the other person may be feeling hurt, let them know that what you wrote and how it came off to them, seeming negative was not your intention. Then explain what you meant when you wrote what you wrote.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
— Proverbs 12:22 (NLT)

5. Leave your ego at the door-

So, if you’re wrong then admit it and apologize. If you’re wrong, don’t simply say “sorry you feel that way.” But, actually say, “I’m sorry for writing XYZ… I was mad at the moment, or I was hurt by XYZ.” It will cause the other person to hopefully get off the offensive, forgive and move on.

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
— Proverbs 16:18 (NLT)

It wouldn’t hurt to schedule a phone, Facetime, or Skype chat to verbally discuss the issue at hand, especially if email and text are not working.

These are just a few tips. The devil loves disunity. So, if we do our part over an email or text that has gone wrong, it will be a slap in the face to the devil. To love like Jesus means to love the unlovable and to always forgive- even the most challenging of people. And to be holy means putting pride aside and asking questions and not allowing passive behavior to set in.

Happy Friday!