By Scott Westerman (Audio)
With the world in lockdown, how can we stay in touch with those we care about? Here are some time tested strategies to help you keep connected.
Start with the “Who”
Over the years, I’ve built a list of people who are among my most treasured friends. It’s grown pretty big with time and some folks fade in and out of it as our lives evolve. To stay in touch, begin by deciding who gets into your circle of connections.
Phone Home / Facetime
The brilliant AT&T tagline, “the next best thing to being there,” applies perfectly. Next to face-t0-face, nothing brightens a true friend’s day more than seeing your name pop up on the caller ID. Remember Dale Carnegie‘s advice. I distilled his classic book How To Win Friends and Influence People into a poem:
Appreciate, don’t criticize and fill their need.
Sincere interest plants the seed.
Remember names and always smile.
Get them to talk and listen while,
About their interests you converse.
And make them feel important first.
Authentic attention and a sincere interest in how their lives are going will be reflected right back at you. It’s easy to do and eventually, they will slide into the zone and practice the same things with you.
With FaceTime and Zoom becoming part of everyone’s skill set, scheduling a virtual meet-up can be a useful alternative when time, distance and germs keep us out of circulation.
I recently sent one of my books to an old friend who had gone missing-in-action. Over the years, I was attentive to remembering her birthday and would occasionally drop a note in the mail with an article or idea that I knew fell into her wheelhouse. This fall, I received a heartfelt card, acknowledging every message and thanking me for staying in touch, even when life made it challenging for her to respond.
Those of you who know me well, are aware that my handwriting is just this side of hieroglyphic. So I use Postable.com. They have a huge array of cards to choose from, along with an option to upload your own pictures and graphics. And when you type your message on the inside, it can render in any of a half dozen fonts, including several that mimic handwriting.
Postable has a robust address book with data fields for birthdays and anniversaries and family member names. You can schedule your card delivery ahead of time and the service reminds you about the events in enough time to get cards into mailboxes on time. The cost is only slightly higher than buying a greeting card and stamp. When you add in the convenience factor, it’s well worth considering.
Short “Thinking of You” Texts
Sometimes, simply texting, “I was thinking about you today and just wanted to send some positive energy your way. Hope you are well!” can be a magic way to stay in touch. Be prepared to respond if your text happens to generate a digital conversation and don’t be afraid to hit the dial button to step up to a voice chat.
Engaging on Social Media
Those of you with Facebook accounts know what it’s like to open your browser on your birthday. Your connections are reminded that it’s your “cake day” and it’s super easy to send a note or a messenger message their way. Avoid the simple “Happy Birthday!” box-checking.
Personalize your message with something that touches their heart. I avoid wishing people well on their social timelines, preferring instead to use the privacy of messenger. A secondary benefit is that you can re-use a great line. You’ve all probably received something from me that says, “I hope you are surrounded by love and affirmation today and every day,” or something similar. It’s a sincere sentiment that fits my most important relationships. Like a comic on network television, posting a creative line on a timeline where the world can see it burns your material. Going “direct” solves that problem.
Scan your feeds for life events, happening in real time. Commenting on them on someone’s timeline works better than kicking the “like” button. Liking someone’s post is a good fall-back if you are busy. It’s not perfect, but it lets friends know you saw their post, a subtle support message that they will subconsciously process.
Follow Dale’s rules on social media. Avoid engaging in the politics and controversy that populate many feeds. These days, every political comment may alienate you from half of your friend list.
How to stay connected with email
Email is fast becoming more of a headache to be managed as opposed to an effective way to stay in touch. But it can still be effective. Carefully craft your subject line to catch their eye. Keep your emails short and put the meat of the message in the first paragraph that appears “above the fold” on their screen.
Many of us won’t click through to a link, so use the Reader-View option on your browser to get a well formatted cut-and paste version of a newspaper story or blog post you want to share.
I have certain friends who know my interests well and send me messages with useful resources and insights. I keep an eye out for them in my inbox and prioritize reading their stuff first.
Build a system
Every day, I send four emails, two texts and make one phone call to my friend list. Over the course of a year, that keeps me connected with most people in my circle. That may be over the top for others, but find a routine that works for you and follow it.
Especially now, when Covid cabin fever is epidemic, nothing makes someone’s day more than hearing from a friend.
Whatever you do, it should reflect who you are. For nearly 44 years, my motto where my beautiful wife is concerned has been, “Never stop doing what you did to win her in the first place.”
These days, the extraordinary ups and downs we are living may conspire to darken your attitude. You are a person of great value. You matter. And the fellow travelers who you’ve chosen to walk with in this life can affirm that fact, even as they can help you continue to grow. I hope these ideas add value as you continue to deepen the relationships that mean the most to you. Thank you for including me in your circle!