If you’re feeling like your friendships are lacking these days, you’re far from alone. The past year has added all sorts of strain to our connections with others, which can make us feel everything from lonely to guilty to relieved. Rest assured, whatever relationship hiccups you’re facing right now — and whatever your feelings about them — they are normal. If you’re having a hard time reconnecting with friends, or you’re scrambling to keep up with everyone in your circle, these tips are for you.
Take the seriousness out of your Zoom invite
Although Zoom calls aren’t a replacement for in-person connections, they are the next best way to experience empathy and emotional resonance with those we care about, Tara Well, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, tells Thrive. Because of their value, Well recommends extending regular Zoom invitations without making them feel so serious.
“We often associate video calls with meetings and have a specific agenda to get through,” she says. “Instead, try sending a message to a friend like, ‘I miss seeing your lovely face. Can we hang out on video and chat about nothing?’” And most importantly, treat the interaction as you would if you were getting together IRL. “Try to normalize being together in silence and let the conversation lull as you would if you were hanging in person,” Well says.
Set a regular schedule to check-in
As we continue working from home, setting (and keeping!) a schedule is no joke. But sticking to a regular check-in cadence can do wonders for our friendships and our own well-being. “Not only do our friendships help us counteract some of the consequences of loneliness, including suppressed immune functioning, chronic health conditions, and anxiety and depression, feeling connected to our friends actually boosts our overall happiness and life satisfaction,” Miriam Kirmayer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and friendship researcher, tells Thrive.
Next time you’re catching up with a friend, you can suggest setting a date for next time before you say goodbye. Or you can simply talk with your friends about establishing a realistic schedule for catching up. Just don’t forget to act with compassion (towards yourself and others) if your plans fall through every now and again.
Engage in “meta-communication”
The idea of talking about how we talk may sound odd, but it’s actually so significant to maintaining — and growing — our bonds with others. “Meta-communication, or communicating about communication, can be so important for staying connected and making sure each person’s needs are being met,” Kirmayer says. She suggests asking and reflecting on questions like: Are you finding the endless video calls draining? Do you find it difficult to open up through text messages? Do you both feel satisfied with how and when you connect?
Revisiting these questions from time to time will allow you to truly connect every time you pick up the phone or hop on that Zoom call — one you’re actually looking forward to.