Text based communication is becoming more and more commonplace, even though some feel it is limited by the fact that non-verbal cues (e.g. body language, tone of voice) are pretty much non-existant. The more you type, however, the more you do learn alternative ways of expressing yourself. There are many ways in which you can express your emotions, tone and communication style, all with your keyboard.

This information is designed to assist our clients to use our live chat counselling service.

Descriptive text

Simply typing out your emotions, expressions and gestures as you have them can be immensely helpful to the person you are communicating with. This may mean paying a bit more attention to your own experience; you can’t type out that you’re frowning if it is automatic and you haven’t noticed it yet! Be really aware of what is happening for you – your thoughts, feelings and behaviour – as you chat.

There are a couple of ways you can communicate your non-verbal cues in text. The use of descriptive immediacy and of emotional bracketing can offset the diminished emotional content of online counselling.

Descriptive immediacy means providing imagery for the other person to help them understand the written words, by describing what may be visually happening for you. For example:

“As I consider your success, my smile is a mile wide and I’m nodding my head saying, yes, you did it!”

Emotional bracketing is where you place the emotions that go along with the words you are saying into the  body of the text-based message, using brackets. For example:

“I haven’t heard from you for some weeks (concern, worry).”


An emoticon is a textual representation of an emotion or facial expression. Emoticons are often used to alert a responder to the tone or temper of a statement, and can change and improve interpretation of plain text. The word is a portmanteau of the English words emotion (or emote) and icon.

Some emoticons include:

:-)   :)   :o)   :]   :3   :>   =]   8)   =) Smiley or happy face
:-D   :D   8D   XD   =D Laughing, big grin
:-(   :(   :c   :<   :[   :{ Sad face
D:   D8   D;   D=   DX Horror, disgust, sadness
;-)   ;)   ;]   ;D Wink, often indicates that you’re joking
:-P   :P   XP   :p   :-Þ   :Þ   :-b   :b Tongue sticking out, cheeky/playful, indicates you’re joking
:-O   :O   O_O   o_o   8O   0_o   O_o Surprise, shock
:-/   :/   :   =/   =   :S Skeptical, annoyed, undecided, uneasy, hesitant
:| Straight face, disgusted, grim, no expression
(Name)  (((Bob))) Hug, or a “cyberhug”
:-X   :x   :-#    :# Sealed lips, embarrassed
O:-) 0:3 O:) Angel, innocent
:'(   ;*(   T_T   ;_; Crying
>:)   >;)   >:-) Evil or cheeky grin
D:<   >:(   >:C   D-:<   >:-(   :[email protected]   `_´ Angry, mad
<3 Love heart
</3 Broken heart, no love
=^_^=   =>.>=   =<_<=   =>.<= Happy blushing, embarrassed blushing, bashful
m/ Rock on
o/ Praise, excitement, jumping for joy
@}-;-‘— Rose


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