Relationships can be difficult to maintain on a good day. With work, hobbies, and projects – it can be hard to make sure we’re spending quality time with the people who matter most during the best of times. Making sure we’re prioritizing our relationships is always important. Perhaps now more than ever.
If you’re struggling to figure out how best to spend time with family and friends, fret not – we’ve got you covered.
Don’t Confuse Quantity with Quality
You’re stuck at home. You see your spouse every day. Your kids are doing schoolwork behind you as you draft up your next work proposal. Grandma and grandpa have crowded into the guest room to help with childcare and to stay close. There are people around you all of the time. So, obviously, that means you’re spending time with them. Right?
Not so fast.
While it may seem easy to imagine that just by nature of being stuck with the people you care about, you’re automatically getting more relationship time in, that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, it can mean you’re taking some time you spend with them for granted.
We have a tendency to take those closest to us for granted, regularly. Social scientists call this the “closeness-communication bias.” The closeness-communication bias is an unconscious belief many of us have that, once we know someone fairly well, we know them. As a result, we don’t listen to them as closely or as attentively as we should. We leave things left unsaid because we assume they’ll know what we want or think intuitively. We ask fewer, less thoughtful questions.
After all, we know each other, right?
Not always. Communication is a skill, and maintaining close relationships requires work. Talking to one another doesn’t mean that you and your loved ones are having deep conversations. Likewise, just because you’re stuck together it doesn’t mean you’re “spending time” with one another. Instead, take a quality approach.
Have both members of the relationship time block part of your day so you can get some one-on-one time. If you’re face-to-face, put your devices down. If you’re getting this quality time virtually, make sure you turn off all other notifications so you can focus on just that one person. Participate in active listening, giving your full attention and asking questions instead of assuming an answer. Get your loved one’s buy-in and figure out a fun activity that the two of you can do together.
Connect in Different Ways
Where before we could bump into neighbors at the playground or chat about our weekend with coworkers by the water cooler, casual connections aren’t really possible now. So, how do you go about grabbing a cold one with friends when there’s no one around?
Technology is a wonderful thing that can help us bridge distances in ways we’ve never been able to before. If you’re wanting to spend time with people who are far away (or even down the road), schedule some time for a fun, digital hangout. Facetime your loved ones. Create a Facebook group and share information about solo hobbies likes gardening, fishing or hiking. Throw a cocktail party on Zoom or Google Hangouts. Or, watch movies long distance with Netflix Party.
While it isn’t quite the same as seeing someone in person, there are still a myriad of ways we can connect and spend time with people face to face.
Embrace an Old Way of Doing Things
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. If you get tired of basking in the glow of your phone or computer screen, you can always go old school with your communication style. Think back to a time when people didn’t have the internet at their fingertips. A time when it took longer than a click of a mouse to send a message or a swipe of our finger on a smartphone screen. How did everyone stay in touch?
A lot of the times, they wrote a letter.
I know, it seems weird, but letter writing has its advantages. For one thing, it’s a more longform medium. You can really take your time, parse out larger topics for discussion, and go in depth in a letter. Deciding to be someone’s surprise pen pal can get a fun way to brighten their day, and break up the monotony of getting the mail. And at the same time, there’s a level of tangibility to it. The smell of perfume, the inclusion of a token or gift — letters and packages bring a physical element to your communication that can’t always be achieved over the phone or through a screen.
You can even do it for people around you! Write your children letters and tell them they have to wait to read them until a year from now, create tiny keepsakes for love ones, or scatter love notes for your significant other. Take our word for it — it’s a ton of fun!
Don’t Forget Number One!
It can be easy in the middle of a crisis to shift our focus entirely on other people. As partners, teachers, parents and friends – there are a lot of people whose needs we’re concerned with. But it’s also important to spend time on ourselves.
When we take care of ourselves, make space for our own mental and emotional wellbeing, and de-stress, we give ourselves the tools we need to be the best version of ourselves. And when we’re happier mentally, emotionally and physically, we can better support those around us.
Take some time every day to do something for yourself. Even if it’s five minutes to drink your favorite tea, meditate, journal, or enjoy the morning. No matter how busy you may be, it’s key to set aside some time for yourself to rest and recharge. Keep this in mind when you’re time blocking your days. That way, you can greet the chaos of life with a full battery.
How are some ways you’ve stayed connected with others around you? Let us know on our Facebook page!