Find out how to minimize and manage the anxiety that comes with texting and dating with these helpful tips.
Many individuals, particularly singles, suffer from texting anxiety. Although it is not a recognized professional condition, texting anxiety is quite real for many people. As dating becomes more focused on dating apps, social media, and text messaging, it’s clear that texting has surpassed all other modes of communication and has become a cause of worry for many people in the process.
So many singles nowadays are reading between the lines of every text conversation in an attempt to make sense of it all and figure out what the other person is thinking or intending to do. And who can blame them, given the circumstances? Incomplete phrases, delayed replies, and the usage of cryptic emojis all contribute to the confusion and obscurity of the communication process. If you already suffer from anxiety or have a tough time dealing with ambiguity, it is understandable that you might have emotions of discomfort or anguish as a result of this.
Because we like shortcuts and efficiency, we continue to depend on technology and the usage of text messaging to communicate everything and everything, which is a sad state of affairs. It is used to confirm plans, provide directions, keep in contact with people, flirt, have uncomfortable discussions, and in general to retain a feeling of connection with those around us. So, although the most apparent (and straightforward) answer would be to “stop texting so much,” there are other options “This seems to be an extremely unreasonable expectation. To make up for it, I’d want to offer some of the strategies that may be used to deal with and reduce the effects of texting anxiety.
Tip number one: Ditch the decoding.
Whenever you get a text from someone you’re dating or talking to that is A) ambiguous or short, B) noncommittal, or C) leads you to become confused, ask yourself, “Should it really be this difficult?” While dating and relationships both require effort and hard work, communication and forthrightness are essential in both situations. If you are already having to decipher each and every text, this may be a hint that you should consider moving on. Communication should be relatively smooth and simple when dealing with the appropriate person—there should be minimal room for guesswork or reading between the lines.
Tip number two: Be specific.
If you are perplexed by a text or suspect that there may be a misunderstanding, ask clarifying questions to get your point through. Consider the following scenario: you want to make arrangements with someone you are just starting to date. Sending a text to them to see whether they are available on Saturday night results in them responding with a…smirk face emoji. There is a possibility that you may get nervous since you aren’t sure if this is an emoji of affirmation (confirming that they are accessible) or a statement of ambivalence. “What does this mean?” or “How do I react to that?” are some questions you may ask yourself.”
Instead of delving down the rabbit hole of all of the “what-ifs” and attempting to decipher the meaning of an emoji, just ask the person who sent it. Some individuals find this idea to be completely mind-blowing. “Isn’t it possible to simply ask?” you may wonder.” Yes! Absolutely! If there is any possibility of misunderstanding, or if you believe that clarifying a text might reduce your anxiety, go ahead and do it. Requesting clarification is a straightforward method that will give you with answers so that you don’t have to wait about in limbo for too long.
Despite the fact that this advice is simple, I understand that it may be difficult for many people to implement because of an underlying fear of rejection or seeming “needy.” I’m also aware that many people desire to come off as “easy-going” or “low maintenance” to a potential companion or spouse. But keep in mind that you are an important part of any relationship in which you are involved. In order to prevent misunderstandings (and wasting each other’s time), you are permitted to be aggressive and ask clarifying questions when necessary.
Step three: Take a break from your smartphone.
Stop checking your phone for new texts, messages, or activity on social media and put your phone down for a while. Many singles, particularly those in recent relationships, have developed a strong obsessive habit of checking their phones and re-reading text messages. As a consequence, singles will often put their whole lives on hold as they await the answer of the person of interest or attempt to make sense of a single text message they have received.
Instead of being present and maintaining a sense of balance, the phone becomes a source of obsession, which only serves to increase worry.
As a result, attempt to establish some physical barrier between yourself and your phone, if at all possible. Place the phone in a different room or set it to “do not disturb” mode.” If you’re out doing errands or hanging out with pals, keep it hidden from view. By taking this pause, you will improve your capacity to be more aware in your daily life. The benefits of doing so include being more present in discussions, appreciating all of the wonderful things that you have (things that exist outside of dating), and shifting your focus and attention away from your thoughts and onto the surroundings and activities that are taking place around you.
Tip 4: Communicate in person whenever possible.
This may seem to be extremely old-fashioned and out of current, but if texting is going to make a problem worse than it needs to be, you always have the option of communicating by telephone or in person. Telephone talks have the advantage of allowing you to hear the other person’s tone of voice as well as having a discussion in real time with them. You have access to non-verbal communication when you are having in-person discussions, which can be very useful and instructive in some of the more challenging topics. Sarcasm, the sincerity of another person, and the possibility of misunderstanding may all be discerned via non-verbal signals such as eye contact, facial expressions, and posture, among others.
You could argue that: 1) not everyone enjoys chatting on the phone, and 2) you don’t want to contact someone unexpectedly without giving them a heads up. While these are valid points of contention, particularly in today’s age of texting, I would contend that texting continues to create much more confusion and worry than is necessary. By communicating with people in a genuine and honest manner, we might prevent misunderstandings and have more peace of mind.
Why Do Anxious Pet Parents Have Anxious Pets?
Author Kim Brophey, who is the author of Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior, is an applied behavioral ethologist who specializes in canine behavior.
She specializes in dealing with dogs that have behavioral issues, as well as with the owners of these pets. When I inquired as to whether dogs that were brought to her canine behavior clinic with anxiety problems tended to be accompanied by anxious owners, she responded in the affirmative right away.
“Indeed, this is correct. Dogs whose owners suffer from high levels of stress or anxiety are often more stressed than the typical dog, and they also show greater anxiety or hyperarousal.”
“Absolutely!” replied Carri Westgarth, author of The Happy Dog Owner, when I inquired as to whether she had observed a correlation between frightened shy dogs and nervous owners. These findings are consistent with a growing body of studies demonstrating that dogs and their owners have personalities that are similar. The anthrozoologists Anthony Podberscek and James Serpell published a paper in 1997 detailing their thorough investigation into this subject. They used the Cattell 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire, which was a prominent personality test at the time, to compare the personalities of individuals who owned violent English cocker spaniels to the personalities of those who owned non-aggressive English cocker spaniels.
In their study, the researchers discovered that owners of violent dogs were more likely to be tense, emotionally unstable, shyer, and unorganized than owners of dogs with no history of aggressiveness.
The Five-Factor Model of Personality is a theory of personality that consists of five factors.
The Five-Factor Model has dominated personality research over the last two decades. There are five fundamental aspects of human personality, according to this theory:
(1) openness to new experiences,
and (5) neuroticism.
Researchers now refer to the neuroticism characteristic as “negative emotionality” or “emotional instability,” which are terms used by certain psychologists. Moreover, some researchers prefer to use the word “emotional stability” instead of “neuroticism” to refer to the characteristic rather than the scores on the neuroticism scale. In this instance, individuals who are more worried are considered to have poor emotional stability.
According to studies, nervous owners are more likely to have nervous dogs.
More than a dozen studies have already shown associations between at least some of the Big Five characteristics of pet owners and the behavior of their dogs. The most consistent results, on the other hand, are those that pertain to the component known as “neuroticism.” This component is associated with the presence of negative emotions such as fear, guilt, worry, and tension in those who score high on it. Here is a selection of the results from the study.
A study team led by veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman investigated the connection between the Big Five personality characteristics of 1,564 dog owners and 17 undesirable behaviors in their dogs. Dogs with difficulties on 13 of the behavior concerns were owned by owners who scored poorly on the “emotional stability” characteristic (i.e., had high neuroticism scores). These included hostility against their owners, aggression toward other dogs, fear, attention-seeking behavior, separation anxiety, and continuous barking.
According to a research published in 2020, individuals who owned dogs who attacked humans or animals had greater neuroticism ratings than those who owned dogs that were nonaggressive.
A canine version of the Big Five Personality Inventory was administered to owners by researchers at the Clever Dog Lab in Vienna and the Family Dog Project in Budapest. Owners evaluated their dogs’ personalities as similar to their own on all five of the Big Five characteristics, although neuroticism was the attribute in which the greatest similarity was found between the owners and their dogs’ personalities. The researchers conducted the study to rule out the idea that the owners were projecting their anxieties onto their pets by having family members evaluate the personalities of the owners and their dogs. Again, owners who were regarded as having a high level of neuroticism by family members had pets that were nervous and frightened.
Carri Westgarth and her colleagues at the University of Liverpool looked at the prevalence of dog bites among people in 1,280 homes. Persons who scored high on the Big Five neuroticism scale (the researchers used the reverse coded phrase “emotional stability”) were more likely than emotionally stable (that is, less neurotic) people to have been bitten by a dog.
In a 2019 study, researchers at Michigan State University administered the Big Five personality assessment to 1,681 dog owners as part of the study’s methodology. The Dog Personality Questionnaire was also completed by the pet’s owners. Pets belonging to owners who scored higher on “negative emotionality” (their name for neuroticism) tended to be more frightened, more agitated, and less receptive to training.
Do Dogs Become Neurotic Because of Their Owners? The Causal Arrow Problem is a kind of mathematical puzzle.
“So, Hal, which comes first, the anxious dog or the worried owner?” Patricia McConnell, author of numerous books on dog behavior and the blog The Other End of the Leash, inquired of me. That’s an excellent question.
According to one theory, the like-owner/like-dog phenomena is simply due to perception, with neurotic owners projecting their worries onto their otherwise perfectly normal dogs. The Austrian and Hungarian researchers, on the other hand, were able to rule out this option by including outside observers in their study and having them evaluate the dogs’ behavior.
Maybe nervous dog owners are drawn to neurotic and emotionally demanding dogs and seek them out as pets because they are so calming and comforting. After all, social psychologists have shown that individuals choose friends and love partners who have personalities that are similar to their own.
One alternative theory is that the causative arrow points upward from dogs to their owners, indicating that they are in danger. Living with a frightened, aggressive, or emotionally unstable dog may raise the stress and anxiety levels of their owners.
The most probable answer, in my opinion, is that neurotic owners—at least in part—contribute to the development of nervous pets. Owners who are neurotic, for example, may be terrible dog trainers. Indeed, the canine behavior expert James Serpell commented to me, “I have previously hypothesized that neurotic owners may be like overprotective helicopter parents who fail to socialize their dogs correctly, thus making them more nervous in new settings.”
A recent research from Portugal, on the other hand, indicated that a different mechanism could be at work: emotional contagion. In fact, a spate of studies have shown that dogs are sensitive to the emotions of their owners. “The results indicate that dogs’ “empathetic characteristic” (i.e., emotional responsiveness to their owners’ emotions)…could explain the observed relationship between owners’ and dogs’ anxiety,” the researchers stated in their paper.
Kim Brophey, a dog behaviorist, thinks that the emotional contagion theory has sense, especially for certain kinds of dogs. She wrote to me, saying, “Many breeds have been specifically chosen for their attention to people and their ability to form bonds with them… When it comes to absorbing the emotional condition of their human counterparts, they are particularly vulnerable.”
I have a feeling she’s correct.