You know that obnoxious habit of waiting hours ― sometimes days on end ― to reply to a text?
There’s a name for that: cricketing — when you read a text but don’t reply for way too long or not at all. Instead of getting a response, the poor person you’re communicating with waits and waits and waits to hear back from you. Cue the crickets.
The term came to prominence earlier this year when the dating website Plenty of Fish included it on a list of dating behaviors modern singles deal with regularly.
The site described in the context of romantic interactions, but it could just as easily be applied to communication with anyone — for example, if your mother-in-law asks whether you’re going to a barbecue on Sunday and you brush the text aside, only to realize on Sunday that you forgot to reply.
Still, there is something particularly unpleasant about experiencing it from someone you’re in love with, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men.
“Weekly I hear partners complain about communication problems in their relationships connected to texting. It’s usually either that their partner is ‘blowing up my phone’ or ‘I don’t get a response,’” he said. “I see both sexes equally guilty of misusing texting and just as likely to use passive-aggressive behavior like cricketing.”
Parents and older texters tend to be more prone to cricketing, said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life: Master All Social and Business Exchanges.
“I recently had a client who told me that her parents were the worst cricketers,” she told HuffPost. “She said she could be having a smooth exchange with them but as soon as she asked if they were still OK with babysitting the kids for the weekend or with giving her a ride to pick up her car from being serviced, she’d get nothing but crickets.”
The woman’s parents assured her that the silence wasn’t intentional, but the damage was done.
“Her immediate assumption was that they just didn’t want to help her,” Gottsman said. “That reaction is enough to leave a person feeling hurt.”
Of course, cricketing is even more irksome if you’re messaging with people who have their read receipts on. The message there? “Yes, I saw your message, and yes, you’re being ignored.”
In the grand scheme of things, getting worked up over a text ― or a lack thereof ― may seem like a petty grievance, but collectively, cricketing can be hard to shake. It’s the implicit disrespect of your time that hurts the most, Smith said.
“Being ignored is not only disrespectful, but it’s also unloving,” Smith said. “We don’t expect to be treated this way by those we care about, so it’s all the more exasperating.”
So how do you rectify your ways if you’re a serial cricketer? For starters, if you can’t respond in full, let people know you intend to get back to them as soon as you have a free moment, said Carin Goldstein, a couples therapist in Sherman Oaks, California.
“Take 10 seconds and write the person something like, ‘I will definitely get back to you in the next day or so ― just so swamped today,’” she said. “The key is to say something that shows that the other person deserves to be acknowledged just as much as you.”
Smith recommends making it a habit to reply to every last text the same day, if not within the first few hours.
If that’s still too much to ask, tell your friends and family you’re an old-school communicator and prefer to chat about meatier subjects verbally.
“If the topic is more than you’re ready to discuss in text in detail, then just acknowledge that you received the message and need some time to think about how you want to respond,” he said. “It’s as easy as that.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the title of Gottsman’s book.
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