Stephanie Michele is a certified behavioral analyst, CEO of SocialBling and the founder of No Text or Next. Stephanie advocates that an advanced quality of relating equals an advanced quality of life. She speaks on the importance of practicing communication skills in the juxtaposition of mainstream “device, media and app addicted” society and promotes the value of maintaining long term relationships. She uses creative and sometimes provocative methods to increase integrity, sincerity, transparency and trust building for individuals and group environments. Her firm, SocialBling specializes in attraction to retention models that are used in digital marketing strategies and workforce culture development.
1. What is “No Text or Next”?
Stephanie: I believe in two things on this planet.
Number One: Every person has something beautiful to say. Maybe what they have to say is not for everyone, but in the right moment and time it is exactly what someone else needs to hear.
Number Two: It is getting harder and harder for people to find each other and have these essential moments with all the noise and distractions that our device addicted world delivers on a daily basis.
No Text or Next is a "let’s break bad communication habits together" movement. We emphasis a good place to start breaking these habits is to look at communication happening via text, instant messaging, and dating apps. We encourage people to take the “No Text or Next” Pledge as a way to radically improve their quality of relating with other people.
Together with #NoTextNext pledgers, we are creating a community of people who dare to say: “I am pursuing healthy, meaningful connection and communication,” “I have had enough of inappropriate boldness said via text, instant messaging, and dating apps,” and/or “Just because text communication is the norm, does not mean it is a good thing or works the best for me.”
2. What types of texters are there?
Stephanie: That is loaded question because although I could have a lot of fun labeling people by their texting habits that does very little to help us answer these questions – In a situation where there are options, why do so many people pick a device over real in-person interaction? Also, as texting becomes a normal part of our multitasking routines, how distracted are we when delivering communication that matters to the well-being of our relationships?
Many surveys have been conducted in the last five years where as high as 60% of the people surveyed confessed to feeling addicted to their personal devices (cell phones and tablets.) In the same period of time marriage is on a decline. A United States report showed a marriage rate of 6.74 out of 1000 people for 2015, down from 7.09 people in 2008. A Pew Research Center report recently said that one-fourth of millennials show no interest in marriage at all. Quality relating is essential in creating healthy long lasting relationships. It is no wonder to me that in a time when a form of communication full of assumptions and distractions is so popular (texting,) people no longer feel that marriage or long term relationship is possible.
3. How can texting hurt our relationships?
Stephanie: Words only make up about 7% of what is needed to truly understand someone when they speak. We need to receive a person’s tone, read body language, and make eye contact with them to understand all the communication signals they are sending. It is easy enough to be misunderstood when all of these things are present. With texting, the receiver of the message is filling in the blanks each time they read something. When there is too much text without offline check-ins, a person can get an entirely different sense for who someone is than who they really are. This is hard to correct and not to mention not at all a foundation for a stable relationship.
The other issue with texting is the role it plays via online dating sites and apps. As we swipe left or right in repeated sessions judging selfies and clever one line bios, we are falling for an illusion that there are hundreds of dating options available to us. This allows us to take more risk with our texting once we do match with someone. Some people don’t even bother to say anything at all once they are matched. Some use the newly opened door of text communication just to further screen a person and rule them out as option before they meet. And then there are others that just use the open door to say whatever the hell they want with no regards to learning about the person they are talking with.
There are no rules or guidelines. Instant Messaging opens the door for first communication to take place and immediately communication is taking granted. Who talks first? What do you ask? What do you share? Words become highly judged and dissected chess moves without any true sense of knowing; “would I connect with this person offline?” It is just so weird. Personally, I respect men who take on the role of the pursuer. Men who ask to talk offline and/or make plans to meet.
4. Why is it that people insist on having long conversations through text/instant messages?
Stephanie: I think for some people it is safer and easier because they are able to say things via text that they would not say in person. This leads to complete ridiculousness via instant messaging and dating app because it allows people to create completely different personas online. I was catfished by a person via a dating app. Even though I knew something was off, I allowed the long conversations to go on. If I was getting quality interaction in other areas of my life I would not have. I was settling for what was available to me at the time. I found out my catfisher was in a committed relationship. He was pursuing connection with me knowing full well that he could not invest any real feelings into an offline relationship with me.
5. What do you think of sending nudes text/instant messages?
Stephanie: I think it great idea in the context of committed relationship; keeping “sexy time” fun and surprising will add years of happiness to a relationship. It is a TERRIBLE idea when meeting someone new or when dating before a commitment because it leads to vulnerable in two areas: intimacy and privacy. Any kind of sex before knowing someone well creates a false sense of intimacy that is likely to lead to loads of expectations that in a short period of time will kill the relationship.
If you are not looking for a relationship then this is probably not an issue for you, but what if the other person is and you piss them off? If you are willing to risk your “junk” being shared publicly online then “sext” away. If keeping your private parts offline is important to you, you probably don’t want to share photos with someone before you know them enough to trust they have integrity with your privacy.
6. Do men and women tend to text or communicate differently?
Stephanie: Since I started No Text or Next I have learned a lot more about this subject. The short answer is, “Yes of course. Men and women communicate differently.” What I have also learned by interacting with our community is there are common complaints amongst the sexes.
The #1 complaint from women is the one word text response from men.
The #1 complaint from men is that women send too many questions or topics to respond to via text before he has a chance to respond.
The #1 shared complaint between both sexes is the “No text back.” There is an incredible amount of anxiety around waiting on the text back; anxiety that could be completely eliminated by setting up the boundaries we suggest via our No Text or Next Pledge.
7. No reply means no interest?
Stephanie: No reply does not necessarily mean there is no interest. When you first meet someone you have to consider they had a life before you. They work. They have friends and family they spend time with. Text is an interruptive form of communication. Sometimes people can’t respond right away or forget to respond when they have time. There are some pretty funny memes floating around about people responding to a text in their head only to realize much later they never sent the text. At the end of the day, if you are not sure if there is interest just ask and not via a text either. If there is no opportunity to ask offline that is strong indication there is no interest. A person who is interested will pursue offline time with you.
8. Can long distance relationships ever work out?
Stephanie: I have never been in a long distance relationship myself, but have listened to several of my friends work through theirs. The relationships that have worked out took some work. Both people had to agree on boundaries regarding seeing other people, when they would see each other, and what they would do to stay connected between those times. The relationships that survived the distance were working towards an exact date on the calendar when they would permanently be together in one location. Long distance relationships with an indefinite time period for the distance are not as likely to survive the strain of the distance.
9. How can communication be improved in long distance relationships?
Stephanie: Long distance relationships require equal doses of work and creativity which is much easier to pull off with all the technology we have access to today. You can use FaceTime or Skype to actually see and hear a person. You can also pull off some very creative quality time by taking the other person with you to a new location you want them to see via FaceTime or watching the same movie on Netflix while staying on Skype.
10. What social skills do we need in order to have healthy social relationships?
Stephanie: Being a good listener is the most essential social skill for maintaining healthy relationships. When we talk to another person we may only be concentrated on what we will say next rather than truly listening to understand. The good news is this is a bad habit that is easy to break. The best exercise I have found to develop great listening skills is practicing structured dialog. Structured dialog was created by Harville Hendrix PhD who wrote the book “Getting the Love You Want.” There are three steps to practicing structured dialog:
Mirroring – Repeating back what the other says and developing a principle of curiosity by asking, “Is there more about that?” “Am I getting everything?”
Validation – Communicating understanding, “This makes sense to me because…”
Empathy - Discussing feelings pertaining to the dialog’s topic, “How did that make you feel?” “I am sorry you had to go through that.”
11. What is next for No Text or Next?
Stephanie: So far people in four countries have pledged No Text or Next. As the community grows, we are working on a video series. We will be taking No Text or Next to the streets asking people to share confusing texts, helping them with their communication struggles, and encouraging them to take the No Text or Next Pledge. As more people take a stance for meaningful communication and better relationships we suspect we will be doing some matchmaking along the way with brands, services and people that all desire to raise the global and local consciousness of authentic connection.