Even in good times, communication can be hard; here are some tips to clear things up.
In the best of times, college can feel like you’re being isolated from your life back home. Normally you’re busy with homework and going to class and making new friends. That can make it difficult to keep up with the people who aren’t physically with you every day. But if you’re completely cut off without any in-person communication, it may feel impossible to know how to reach out and what to say.
Luckily, there are a few concepts that have been tested through time. No matter what is going on in the greater world or in your own personal life, these are good concepts to understand and know when to practice.
Lead with the bad. This works well for a few reasons: One is that it allows you to minimize the damage of bad news by piling good news on top, afterward. Another is that bad news often needs more discussion than good news. Opening with it allows you to properly dig into the news. Lastly, people will remember the end of the conversation. Finishing off with good news will leave people with better memories and hopefully an open mind to future communication.
Care by listening. The majority of communication is actually listening. When you can’t regularly be around the people you care about, a huge part of keeping communication open is listening to what they have to say. Sure you might have something that feels like it’s the most important thing to talk about, but in the other person’s mind, what they are telling you is just as important. Especially if it’s your grandma.
Schedule it. One thing we can lose when we are dealing with a crisis or are no longer living out our normal lives is a schedule or routine. Or we can forget how others’ routines might be affected. Carve out time to talk with those who are important to you—put it on your calendar and make communication a priority. After a while, it becomes a habit and you will find it easy to do, even after a crisis or stressful time passes.
Harness technology. Use technology to your advantage! If you’re trying to stay in touch with your best friend who’s your age, technology probably won’t be much of a hurdle. But if it’s your parents or grandparents, technology could cause a struggle. Be patient if your grandpa can’t get the camera to work. Don’t get mad that your mom keeps changing her background. And the fact you can only see the top of your father’s head is kind of endearing. There are plenty of articles and videos out there to help. Just search for your preferred platform and pass along what you find.
Have fun. When you do connect with someone you haven’t heard from or seen in a while, try and have fun with the moment. Wear funny hats or that onesie you wore last Halloween. Have a “dinner date” where you both eat dinner while you chat.
Put in the effort. It is going to take effort to stay connected. But the vast array of communication resources available today should make it easier. Keep trying, don’t give up.
In the end, we are communal beings, and we live in a time when we can access the entire world through the internet and phone calls. We just have to try and make it work. Remember, if all else fails, you can still mail a letter. It might take more effort than email and video chat, but it is still meaningful, especially to grandparents.