Is your dad a blunt, emotionless texter? There's a reason for that, say experts.

·5-min read
Why are dads so blunt over text? Experts weigh in. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Why are dads so blunt over text? Experts weigh in. (Photo: Getty Creative)

When it comes to texting, everyone has a different style of communication — but there is one style of texting that seems to irk the children of a certain kind of dad. We’re talking about dads who text devoid of any emotion — which, in texting terms, means no emojis, exclamation points or even “lols.” While it’s not exactly a scientifically defined phenomenon, anecdotal evidence suggests that some dads can’t stop, won’t stop bluntly texting their kids, no matter how much it irritates them.

Adam Garcia, founder of The Stock Dork, says his dad is one such texter. He commonly receives texts like “OK” from his dad, along with punctuation that most people would find unnecessary.

“It's not that he isn't an affectionate person,” Garcia explains to Yahoo Life. “It's just that he's never wanted to buy into this whole texting etiquette where you need to tick certain boxes like putting (or more precisely, not putting) a period so the other party doesn't think you're cross, using emojis, etc.”

Maria McDowell, founder of Easy Search People, has a similar blunt-texting father.

“I have never read my Dad with any feeling of emotions,” she shares. “I remember one time I texted my dad that I loved him, and his reply was, ‘OK. Do you need anything?’ When I went to college, he was overseas and didn’t get to drive me. I remember getting his text, and it was, ‘Be careful and read your books. If you need anything, call me.’”

Span Chen, who runs the site The Karate Blog, says he is one such texter — but he insists it’s not personal.

“I have always been that dad that gets accused of being too blunt while texting. In all honesty, it comes from a place of innocence,” he explains. “Half of the time, I don't even want to sound straightforward, but it always sounds like that. My kids and wife sometimes think I am angry with them because of how blunt my text comes out to be, and I always have to explain to them that I'm cool with everybody and that it was not intentional. Sometimes I re-read my text repeatedly to see if it sounds too blunt, and I insert emojis to lessen the seriousness.”

Are there reasons why certain people may be more prone to this kind of texting, while other people try to infuse a bit more emotion into their words? Media psychologist Pamela Rutledge says it's all about a difference in expectation.

“If you view texting as a normal method for communication (in contrast to the exchange of information) and maintaining a connection, then you would follow and expect to see social norms for communication as you understand them,” she tells Yahoo Life. “These are context-adjusted (or text-adjusted) expressions of accepted interpersonal communications for a given group, gender, age, culture or even personality type. If someone views texting as normal rather than utilitarian, then they are more likely to include signals of interpersonal connection, such as emojis and word choice. For these people, the time and effort invested in using emojis helps maintain and enhance social relationships because of the signals they send and how they are received. Even punctuation marks can function symbolically rather than grammatical functions in texting, providing cues for interpretation.”

Older men, she says, may be more prone to this type of blunt communication as men in general tend to use “less emotional language.” She notes that some men — especially those of older generations — may “subscribe to the ‘strong silent type’ model and risk being misinterpreted by their silence offline as well as on.” Yet even those who are affectionate in real life may find themselves being brief over text for other reasons.

“Older men (and women) are less likely to have the level of comfort with texting as a primary communication form that younger people do,” she explains. “They have never established a pattern of casual communication by text. As people age, they may also find the screen size or keyboard size less easy to use which would increase brevity.”

New York City-based clinical psychologist and professor Sabrina Romanoff also suggests that while older men may be more inclined towards blunt texting, it could be the contrast between how many younger women believe they should text that makes these sorts of messages stand out.

“We tend to add more punctuation, words and content as a way of providing validation, affirmation and justification for our requests or communication,” she notes. “It can be threatening to be assertive and women, especially younger women, are socialized to soften their communication to avoid conflict. At times we put extra effort into messages that appear friendly, personable and less persuasive. We also tend to apologize, add in qualifying statements, and include exclamation points to temper our message. We likely observe blunt texting so frequently among this cohort because they are less likely to be concerned with gaining approval or appearing too demanding.”

If your blunt texting dad (or another individual in your life) is stressing you out, however, it might be best to not text at all. Picking up the phone can strengthen your connection to the person you’re chatting with, says Amit Kumar, an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, who researched texting as a communication style.

“What we find is that people expect or anticipate that connecting using their voice — like picking up the phone and making a call — will be more awkward than connecting through text, when, in fact, it isn't,” he explains. “What we found is that there aren't any differences between awkwardness between whether you're talking to somebody or texting with somebody. But there are large differences in terms of how connected you feel to that person. People feel much more connected, when they communicate using their voice than when they're communicating using text alone.”

The other nice thing about a phone call? No punctuation is necessary — which takes the sting out of receiving “OK.”

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