Picture: Susan Holtzman
Researchers at UBC Okanagan say criticizing someone by text rather than face-to-face could o more harm than good.
They say people who text criticism thinking that’s less of a punch are wrong – those comments can have the same impact no matter how they are delivered.
The research team analyzed the emotional responses of 172 individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, who were given criticism in-person, through text messaging or no feedback at all.
Psychology researcher and study senior author Susan Holtzman says the emotional impact of criticism was strikingly similar for participants in the text message and in-person groups.
The participants were also assessed for trait mindfulness-the ability to focus on the present moment.
Holtzman, an associate professor in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, says participants low on mindfulness, who tend to be more emotionally reactive, reported more hurt feelings when criticism was provided through a text message.
“Generally speaking, the use of text messaging for providing negative feedback is not necessarily ill-advised. But it is important to remember that not everyone responds to critical text messages in the same way-there are personality differences in how people react,” says Holtzman. “People also tend to be less inhibited when they are texting, and that can lead to worse outcomes.”
Basically, she says don’t say anything in a text message that you wouldn’t be willing to say in-person.
“And when it comes to making amends, our previous research and other studies show that in-person communication is likely best.”