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Communication is key — text as politely as you would speak

Regarding the Journey

Texting is an important communication tool for me. Receiving and sending a written message through a cell phone carries equal weight to speaking to one another in person, in my mind. To illustrate clearly, if I were to come up to you in public and say something and you turned around and walked silently away, well, that is rude, and possibly meant to be intentionally hurtful. In my heart, texting is simply an extension of the spoken word.

Therefore, when I send a text to someone and do not receive a reply, in my heart it feels the same as if they had turned their back on me without another thought. It’s as though I’ve sent the message into a void with no way of knowing if the intended person heard me. Or, worse, assuming they heard me and chose to ignore the text. There is no right or wrong. That is just how I feel.

To understand why I feel this way, you need to know that I believe communication, in any form, is both a valuable tool and one of the greatest gifts one human can give to another. We are essentially taking valuable time out of our day to include another. We are saying that right now, in this space, nothing is more important to me than you. Time is precious. We each have a finite amount of time. For one person to isolate another in conversation is an attempt to bond — to connect in some meaningful way.

Once I’ve explained this to someone, and they understand, if they care about me, they will adjust how they respond, out of respect. Because, once a thing is known, there is more responsibility on the shoulders of those involved. When I send a text to a friend, I also have to accept that they may not view texting the same as I do.

Let’s not miss that important subtlety. Just because I text a friend, in no way requires them to text back. My text should stand alone, sans expectation of a return communication. We must always be mindful to not project what we need on others as what they, in turn, need. We are each unique. The strongest relationships make concessions for what others need. We adjust for those we love.

It is much like Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” If you have read the book, you know that Mr. Chapman believes there are five love languages.

Each language is important and expresses love in its own way. Once we know and understand each other’s love language, we can create a stronger bond by honoring those we care about and adjusting, if necessary.

The five love languages are defined within their title. Words of Affirmation include the unsolicited compliments and proclamations of love. Equally important is active listening when your loved one speaks.

Acts of Service is the old adage “actions speak louder than words.” No amount of lip service equals love more than vacuuming the floors or running errands.

More than materialism, Receiving Gifts is equal to thoughtfulness. In this language, missing a friend’s birthday or anniversary could be disastrous. Here, the effort behind the gift should be meaningful — no airport gift shop grab will measure up.

Quality Time requires undivided attention. Put down the cell phone, really be in the moment and be fully there for your friend.

And, as it implies, Physical Touch is all about the warmth of human contact. Hugs are welcomed, encouraged. Go ahead, touch your friend’s arm thoughtfully when addressing them.

The tricky part of loving another is understanding how they best receive love and choosing to honor them by providing what they need, without expectation of reciprocation. Because once you know a person’s love language, ignoring it is the opposite of love.

We all operate within these languages to different degrees. Love isn’t always the same between two people.

Just because one person measures love in Acts of Service, the other may translate the amount of time spent together as an act of love. Communication is key. If we don’t speak up and explain what we need to those we care about, how can we expect them to feed our needs? Responsibility is shared by all in the relationship, equally.

Neither side of love is more important than another. How one person in a relationship receives love is not necessarily an indicator of how another person receives or gives love. Communication is key. We must not assume others react the same way as we do. The solution often leads back to open communication. If we can’t talk between and among ourselves and help one another understand what we need, how will we ever expect to evolve our relationships into stronger bonds?

In the words of another thoughtful author, Leo Buscaglia, “Love is always bestowed as a gift — freely, willingly, and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love … No one gets out of this world alive, so the time to live, learn, care, share, celebrate, and love is now.”

Lesslee Dort is a board-certified patient advocate who firmly believes knowledge is power when it comes to being in control of one’s health. She spends her days helping others navigate their health care and her free time exploring. Reach Lesslee at lesslee@friendstogethermi.org. Read her here the third Thursday of each month.

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