Do You Get Me Now? Good!

I previously blogged about the differences between denotation and connotation and I received a lot of replies about how much they apply to text messaging. I conveniently found a tweet from a fellow classmate which pertained to emotions being expressed through e-mails:

As Sean Hall introduces in his book, This Means This That Means That, the connotations are our meanings. We create the connotations through how we interpret the message or picture.

In the article by Eric Jaffe, a study of e-mail interpretations shows that message senders often, if not always, believe that the receivers will understand and interpret the emotions of the e-mail correctly. When it comes to text communication, only 53% of the receivers picked up on the emotion correctly. That’s only half of the people picking up on the correct emotion. Think about that?

On average, people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 24 send 2,022 texts per month– 67 texts on a daily basis– and receive another 1,831. Now if you think of it simply, half of your daily texts are probably being misinterpreted. Which yes, then that would explain why Becky texted you asking “r u mad?” Because people do not understand your emotions through a simple one word text!


Now, if we go back in time when telephones were the future (I know, to think they used to be such a big deal) and transmit those same messages through verbal communication, 73% of the receivers picked up on the emotion correctly. I will be the first one to admit, I don’t enjoy talking on the phone. There are awkward silences and dropped calls and you never quite hear what the other person said. Or we all have those friends or family members who talk to everyone in the room, but not you, the person on the other end that they called in the first place.

Phone calls are a pain.


But, they serve their purpose. As children we are taught the different emotions and how to tell which one is which. We observe facial expressions and draw from the change in tone of someone’s voice. From this study, researchers have explained that face or phone time works much better when it comes to communicating rather than texts or e-mails.

Now rewind to Hall. Connotations are the meanings we understand, right? In the article, Jaffe introduces an e-mail between a consultant and her boss. The consultant served as the sender in this story and the boss, the receiver. The original e-mail was several pages long and filled with everything the boss needed for the project or meeting. While the consultant clearly put a lot of time in to that e-mail, her boss responded with “Noted.”

…Noted?! Yes, the simple one word answer just like when we text a super long meaningful text to get a “K” back in response.

Immediately the consultant took the response negatively, thinking her boss hated her, and questioning whether he truly did or not. As Jaffe shares, “If we all took ‘noted’ to mean ‘he noted that’ instead of ‘he hates me,’ we could all move on with our days.” The problem between the consultant and her boss was eventually solved…through an e-mail asking if he was mad at her followed by a phone call to clear the air.

If we took the message for face value– if we only focused on the denotation of the message– these problems would not be ruining relationships across the technology filled world. In comparison to phone calls, yes, communicating through technology eliminates the awkward silences. But if we’re never put through them, how will we know how to properly handle them?

So why do we suffer from these communication breakdowns? We’re selfish people! We use simple, one-word answers to shorten our response time. We immediately take that lack-luster one-word answer to heart, twist it up, and spit it out to mean “he hates me.”misinterpret

How can we solve these miscommunications? Talk, and I mean verbally talk to the person. Or as Jaffe proposes, “use concrete emotional words in an email (e.g. ‘I’m happy to say…’), or to clarify someone’s tone (‘when you said that, I took it to mean…’), or if you must, to dispatch emoticons.” However, emoticons and punctuation can only cover so much of your message before becoming too much, or indecipherable.


12 thoughts on “Do You Get Me Now? Good!

  1. I can deeply relate to this blog post. Many of times when I receive text messages from may friends or my boyfriend, I sometimes find it difficult to interpret the emotion behind a text. For example, when I receive a text message saying “K” the emotion behind that “K” usual indicates that the person who had sent the text is aggravated in some way. Is this always the case? Absolutely not! My mother sends me text messages replying with just “K” all the time. My mother does that simply just as a really short abbreviation of okay. Text messages can indeed be interpreted differently based on content and the person reading the message.


    • “K” is the biggest problem in texting today. The number of people who have a common misconception of this texting is unbelievable. You would think that with all of the misunderstandings, we’d be able to come up with a common meaning for just “K.” But yet we haven’t. I think if we created a common text language that everyone adhered to, we would have far less misunderstandings. But I also believe we need to bring our original grammar practices back in to play when texting. Using exclamation points along with the context of the message would help receivers understand the emotion of the text more.


  2. I can’t tell you how many times I have misinterpreted a text or someone misinterpreted mine. Something as little as adding a period to the end of my sentence makes a difference in the message. I’ve been asked, “why did you add a period? are you mad at me?” I think the problem is you can’t hear tone of voice through text message. I love the quote about text messaging being a brilliant way to miscommunicate and misinterpret. It’s sad how true it has become. At this point, I’d rather just call someone.


  3. There has been so many times where I took a text wrong. I interpret things in a different way then someone else might. This is where tone is needed and that get’s left out in texts. In a phone call, tone can be portrayed but still can be misinterpreted. Even in person, words can be misinterpreted when a person tries to be sarcastic and the other person doesn’t get it. How do we prevent this from happening? Is there a way that we can convey tone in a text message? I can’t figure it out.


  4. I think this is still one of the biggest things that causes arguments in every friendship,or relationship of any kind! When you said, “Now, if we go back in time when telephones were the future (I know, to think they used to be such a big deal) and transmit those same messages through verbal communication, 73% of the receivers picked up on the emotion correctly.” That’s a big percentage! Emotions are so hard to read through text messages. When people who text you all the time regularly, then randomly start sending one word answers is hard because you don’t know if they are upset with you or just upset or maybe even busy. Perhaps at work or in class. If you asked, “Are you mad at me” They can simply respond no even if they are or not and you can only trust their “text” because you didn’t talk to them face to face or listen to them verbally and can’t hear their voice and emotions. Awesome blog post 🙂


  5. This is a great post and extremely convenient for our society. It seems as if no one picks up the phone to call one another unless its mandatory. Everything is being done through email or text message. Can you really understand someone through these nonverbal messages? I don’t think so. I am sure everyone can relate to a time that they have been misunderstood because of the content of a text. Some people are simply ‘bad’ at text messaging and cannot express emotion. The dreaded reply of “k.” has left many people cringing in their seats. The communication one receives face to face or during a phone call is completely different then in a message. It is almost another language. It seems as if keeping up in the latest text chat is just as important as understand your ABC’s. Sad? –Maybe. I think everyone can relate to this post and being in a similar situation! I do agree that using facial expressions can definitely add enthusiasm and emotion. This makes it a little more personal!


    • Thanks! I agree that this is becoming more and more important as the generations grow. It almost seems as though we need a whole new language and grammar lesson in texting and email. I think that by abbreviating texting, we have eliminated grammar which often shares the emotion that the writer meant. For example, exclamation points mean excitement or yelling depending on the context. I think we need to implement our learned grammar practices for everyday text and email. I also understand your feelings on emoticons, I add them with almost every text 🙂


  6. I think this post is a perfect explanation of how people send and receive messages. I know I misunderstand texts all the time. I had an experience last week where I sent something to a classmate and with their response back to me I thought they were mad or thought me text to them was rude. I did not reply back because I didn’t want my response to be taken the wrong way again. I saw my classmate the next day and discussed the issue and neither of us was mad and both then understood what each other was trying to say. Test messaging and email get misread all the time.


  7. Emotions are so easy yet so difficult to detect in texts. As Jill stated in a comment above, I despise receiving the text “K.” Just the letter, not ok, or kay, or okay. Just K. This usually means the person is annoyed or aggravated or simply does not want to text you. Now with emojis, detecting emotion has became easier than ever because many people sent those to interpret what they mean or how they are feeling. I admit, I can have a full conversation with no words, just emoji pictures and it be totally understandable. That is what our world has came to, using symbols and images because people hate speaking to each other anymore. Remember when we used to call people? Now all we do is text. But emotion in text I believe depends on the person you are speaking with. My mother is awful at texting so when she answers me back with one or two words, that do not make sense, I understand. It took me a while but I get her “short hand” of texting now. People of technology know the ins and outs of texting with emotion and know exactly what they are feeling when they press the send button.


  8. I think that it is hard to tell emotion in type in most instants and can cause many problems between people. There is so much tat can be read wrong in text and short hand just makes it that much harder.


  9. This blog really hit home for me! I always try to read emotions through text messages. I always think that everybody is mad at me. As Sean Hall states in his book, symbols are words and words are symbols. ” K” has definitely become a symbol for “F” You. I think that when we used to call people on the phone, it was much clearer. Even if you got disconnected, it was not very hard to call the person back. When talking on the phone with someone, it is very easy to hear his or her tone of voice, which cannot be done in a text message. The best way to read someone is through their body language, which cannot be seen in both. However, I agree that talking to someone on the phone is a pain, but it allows for a much more intimate conversation. I liked the video, because it was very clear. It always was a bulleted list form but in a video. I also found it, as well as your blog to be very real, but also humorous.


  10. This was a really great post! I can totally relate to it because people read my text messages and they say they can “hear me” saying whatever I texted so they understand the tone or some people get totally confused (My sarcasm doesn’t help).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s