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Save Yourself Texting Grief With The “Who, What, When, Where,” Rule

Posted by Peter Post  April 9, 2013 07:00 AM

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Recently, I’ve found myself talking a lot about texting. Texting has fast replaced email as the preferred way we communicate, at least when it’s not related to business. I’m a perfect example of the migration to texting, and now I’m far more likely to text than email my friends and family.

Long ago I learned that communicating with my daughters was much easier and I got a much faster reply from texts than I did from emails or from voice mail messages. On a side note, I’ve stopped bothering with voice mails in many non-business situations—people simply see they have missed a call and call back without even checking or listening to voice mail. Interestingly, I even find myself doing the same thing.

Back to texting. While it is clearly one of our communication tools (and perhaps even now our preferred communication tool), it’s easy to misuse it. Like email, texting creates an electronic brick wall that leads us to write things we might not ever communicate if we were face-to-face with the recipient.

When you start writing a text, apply my “Who, What, When, Where” rule to your message. If it passes the test, send it. But if it doesn’t, consider talking with the person face-to-face or at least picking up your phone and calling them—even if you have to leave a voice mail message. The “Who, What, When, Where” rule is exactly what it says: Keep your messages confined to the facts. The minute you get into the “Why” or opinion or emotions or relationship issues, that’s when misunderstandings happen. That’s when you write something you think is positive in tone and the recipient thinks it is negative. That’s when feelings get hurt. That’s when relationships become strained.

Texting is a great way to make plans, to connect, to keep in touch on the go, to build relationships. Keep your texts that way by applying the “Who, What, When, Where” rule as you compose them.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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