The U.S. Surgeon General recently issued a report that many Americans found astounding – but millions of others were not surprised. That’s because Dr. Vivek Murthy declared loneliness has “reached an epidemic level” in the United States.
Even though we have more means than ever to stay in touch with our friends, family, and loved ones via smartphones, social media sites, e-mail, and all things internet, people seem to be more isolated now than at any other time in history.
Long distance moves can change a relationship, but learning how to stay in touch can help keep that communication intact.
Needed: A Strategy to Stay in Touch
We live in a time when long-distance relationships are far more likely to develop. Greater mobility in society means family members can wind up living hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
It’s now clear that “staying in touch” doesn’t just happen naturally. What’s needed is for people to make a conscious effort to keep relationships intact. Here are 7 key tips for working a stay-in-touch strategy:
1. Get Real
The first step is not to formulate unrealistic expectations about how often you will communicate with your friends and loved ones. A prime example is sending a text or email and expecting a fast, same-day reply. The fact is that some people are in the habit of replying in 2-3 days.
Thus, get real and understand that everyone communicates differently. Once you accept that and learn each contact’s “communication patterns,” you can settle into a comfortable routine.
2. Use Technology to Compensate
When you lived close to friends it was easy to get together for a cup of coffee or meet up for a walk in the park. Long distances obviously end natural get-together activity.
The key here is doing things together -– and you still can. For example, you leverage technologies like Zoom and others to co-attend online meetings, such as a book club discussion group, a prayer gathering, or just a “free-for-all bull session” with the “old gang.”
3. Use & Set Reminders
Whether using a simple calendar or a special app, set reminders to give your besties “a poke” at all the important times in their lives, such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It can be anything, however. If a friend is taking a flight or has a job interview later in the week, set a reminder to call or text that person with a wish for a safe journey or “luck” with the interview.
4. Don’t Fret Over the Lack of Contact
Maybe someone has not responded to your messages for a long time. Well, fretting about is simply not a solution. Just roll with it. Keep sending a brief note now and then – then let go. All relationships ebb and flow. Accepting that only helps.
5. Use Distance as an Excuse
Maybe you would like to travel more? What better excuse than buying a bus or plane ticket to go visit your family or a friend in person? Also, a long drive in the car can be therapeutic. If you can justify the time and expense of travel by noting the necessity of maintaining bonds with people you love, you’ll just feel it’s the right use of your resources.
6. Back to the Future
Without getting into details, the science of evolutionary psychology informs us that part of building stronger bonds with people involves discussion about what you will do together in the future.
Thus, communicate more about future plans or the possible things you and your long-distance friends could do together one day. You might be amazed at how this stimulates greater contact.
7. Be There When It Counts
Okay, so maybe you’re still falling short in contact frequency. But a huge factor is always being available for your loved one when it really, truly counts. Your bonds will remain strong if your important people understand that, when it’s crunch time, you will be there for them in person or virtually.