Living in a mobile, fast paced, ever-changing society such as ours has its advantages and its disadvantages. On the plus side, we can now explore more of the world than ever before, we can experience new things, and we have the opportunity to get to know a greater number of people than if we spent our whole lives living in one place. The downside is that once you leave those friends, or they leave you, a rut begins that goes like this:
“Oh, I haven’t talked to [insert name here] in a while! I should call her, but I really don’t have time for a long chat.”
One month later….
“Oh goodness! Now it has been two months since I talked to [insert name here]. I want to catch up with them, but with my crazy schedule I just can’t spare 2 hours.”
Another month goes by, and you finally have a free afternoon. So, you call them, and get their voicemail, of course. Then they call you back, and get your voicemail, and the cycle is perpetuated until you finally connect and spend 3+ hours catching up on the past 6 months or however long it has been since you last spoke. At the end of the call both parties promise to call sooner and agree not to let this happen again, except that it always does.
At least, that is what so often happens in my world. Until recently, when I read a fabulous blog post I can’t find anymore from someone I have never met. She postulated a solution she uses to correct this endless cycle that has helped me tremendously in keeping up with dear friends.
The idea is not revolutionary, but it does take commitment on both sides.
You both agree to talk more often for a shorter amount of time, say 5 minutes.
It is extraordinary how much you can communicate in 5 minutes.
Just share one story from your day, or call to share something funny that happened, or just to say hi and hear their voice. The best part about it is because you have both agreed to the plan, there is no guilt when you call on your way to the grocery store and say “hi, on my way to the store, just wanted to see how your week is going”, and 4 minutes later when you arrive saying “ok, great to chat, just got here! Talk to you again soon”.
I’ve been experimenting with this brilliant idea since I moved back to DC a few months ago, and so far I love it. I have a list on my phone of 8-10 friends who are in it with me, and on my 30-45 minute drive home from work, I go down the list and call them. Or I call them when I see something that reminds me of them, or do something I know would make them laugh. Or I call on my way to the store, or while I am sitting at home. And sometimes they call me! Some days I talk to one friend, other days I talk to 4 voicemails, and still other days I talk to three friends in one drive. Sometimes we talk for 3 minutes, and sometimes we talk for an hour and a half.
It’s really quite freeing. We place such high expectations on ourselves when it comes to keeping up with our friends, thinking that it is only a “good” talk if it lasts for hours and you talk about every aspect of your life. But the reality is we rarely have time for those chats, even though our desire to maintain the friendship is genuine. What I have found is that talking more often, no matter how long or short the conversation, strengthens the bond and deepens the friendship in a way that talking for longer periods less often cannot accomplish.
So, I invite you to try it. Share the idea and see if your friends are interested. You never know what might happen!