Social distancing is nothing new to people in long-distance relationships… and family members and friends that live far away from each other.
So let’s take some cues from those people in long-distance relationships on how to communicate when you’re not seeing each other in person. It's the perfect time to practice some creative methods for staying in touch aswe are forced to practice social distancing in many countries.
Tools to Use
Find the Right Tools
In today’s age of technology, we have many tools at our disposal that make it easy to keep in touch across distances, or social distancing. This could even be a good time to consider new tools and try out a bunch of communication methods. People in long-distance relationships say that variety is the spice of life when it comes to how you keep in touch—in other words, mix up different ways of communicating to keep things interesting. Or you may find it works well to communicate with certain people through one tool and others through a different tool.
Tools to Try
These are some ideas of how you can communicate using technology:
- Make a private group for communicating, such as through Whatsapp or Facebook.
- Video chat through Google, Facetime or another application.
- Try the Marco Polo app that allows you to send short video messages.
- Share videos and photos on Snapchat.
- Send short messages through text or Facebook Messenger.
Of course, there are additional tools available, so feel free to try different ones and see what works for you and your loved ones. While you might like to try different methods, keep in mind that some people will do better at sticking to one tool.
Ideas for Interacting
Do Activities “Together”
Even when you can’t be physically together, you can engage in the same activity at the same time together and share the experience through video chat. For example, plan to all have dinner at the same time, set up your video chat and then talk to each other while you eat. You could try the same thing as you watch the same show, follow the same recipe, go for a walk or do some other activity at the same time. This technique could include two people or a whole group! In this case, we’ll just keep our video time family-friendly unlike those long-distance couples…
Share Letters and Photos
This is a wonderful time to send letters to each other, whether you write them by hand and put them in the mail or send an email. Just think of how couples have sent each other love letters throughout the ages… try something similar with your friends and family—just skip the mushy stuff! You could also send physical or digital photos. Consider turning this into a group form of communication. For example, create a group email with everyone responding through “reply all” and/or create a digital photo album where you share group pictures and allow everyone else to share theirs.
Send Thoughtful Gifts
Consider sending your loved ones gifts to show them you’re thinking of them. This could include physical gifts or other ideas that could be helpful when everyone’s cooped up at home, such as subscriptions to at-home reading, TV or other entertainment services. You could even help someone out with a gift card for a grocery or meal delivery service, or a care package.
Tips for Interacting
Follow Communication Skills
Adapt the communication skills you use to the method of communication so that you ensure you’re coming across the right way. For example, when you text or email, you need to consider how someone will read a message when they’re lacking verbal and non-verbal cues to go along with it. Also, it’s always smart to consider each person’s different experience during this time. In other words, adapt to your audience. So you might want to send different types of messages to people who are staying at home with their kids compared to your anxious grandmother, for example.
Types of Messages to Send
This is a difficult time filled with anxiety and uncertainty for many people. Keep that in mind while you’re communicating. Try to read your audience and see how they’re taking the situation, and then you can respond accordingly. Ask people how they’re doing. Overall, people will benefit from positive and supportive communication right now. Many people are feeling isolated, so let them know you’re there for them and will help in any way you can. Focus on the desire to want to stay connected. Also, try not to send a cookie-cutter message that won’t mean too much. Instead, come up with original messages that facilitate real connections with each person or group.
Also, many people in long-distance relationships have realized that the setup helps them focus on what’s most important in their lives and their relationship. Instead of spending time on mundane aspects of everyday life like people do when they’re together all the time, partners tend to spend more of their together time focusing on what’s most important. This can give them more of an appreciation for what they have and the positive aspects of life. You can do the same in your connections during this time.
How Often to Stay in Touch
The answer to this depends on you and your relationship with family and friends. You should communicate in an amount that works for both people in the relationship. The key is to find a balance where the communication is supportive without being overwhelming or stifling. Since communication is different with family members and friends than it is with a significant other, in this case you would probably communicate less than if you were in a long-distance relationship with someone.
This is a time to respect the time and responsibilities of your family and friends, and to be understanding that they have a lot on their minds and their plates, just as you do. During this time, it might be best to continue communicating regularly but in ways that provide flexibility. And you can set the expectation with each other that everyone will understand if each party doesn’t respond right away. For example, you can email or send a text with low pressure for the person to respond instantly. Instead, the person can respond when they can, and then you can also respond when you’re able. This will help each party be able to respond at a time that works for them without having an extra burden added to their already full load. Then, you can agree on best times for things like video chats.
See the Bright Side
Being temporarily separated from your loved ones doesn’t necessarily have to be a punishment. Instead, you can spend some time focusing on yourself and your immediate family while finding ways to stay in touch with everyone else. When everyone is social distancing or stuck at home, this is a great time to find ways to reach out and to maintain connections. If you put some thought into it, you can make communication through technology special and meaningful, especially if you keep in mind that the lockdown will only be temporary. That's what the best long-distance relationships do!