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7 Ways to Connect to Family When They’re Far Away

7 Ways to Connect to Family When They’re Far Away

Family, it’s one of those words that conjures up different images for everyone. Family can be a group of close friends, your blood relatives, or a mixture of both.

For me, it’s the latter but, regardless of what we see when we think of our family, one thing that’s true for all of us is that we miss them when they’re not around.

With the holidays rolling in, a lot of us are going to be feeling this even more but, just because our family can’t join us at the table, doesn’t mean we can’t connect. Here are seven ways to do just that:

1. Gourdy the Traveling Gourd

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    This is a neat idea I actually got from a friend. Years ago, when she left for college, her family sent her with a plastic gourd that they had crafted a face onto. They named him Gourdy and asked her to send home updates on his adventures. At Thanksgiving, Gourdy came back to the family and all of his tales were told over dinner.

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    The tradition stuck and Gourdy actually started going with whoever was going away the farthest each year. I absolutely love this idea and there’s so much you could expand upon. Why not create a private facebook page for Gourdy? Or a youtube channel? What about a snapchat channel? This is really a fun way for the family to connect throughout the year.

    2. The Monthly Video Check In

    SONY DSC

      Okay, so all of us have excuses as to why we can’t speak with each other every week, but what about once a month? Anyone can make time for that. Schedule a video chat out in advance, or have it on the same day and at the same time each month.

      There will be occasions where someone has to miss out because of life, but they should be few and far between. If it’s really a problem getting everyone together, why not break it down into small groups. Have one month be just the gals, one just the guys, and another for everyone. There are a ton of ways you can video chat with family. Get on Skype, Google Hangouts, or Tinychat.

      3. Tales of the Family

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        This idea requires some creativity, but the payoff is a fun, entertaining way to stay connected to family. One person buys an empty notebook and starts off. They use the notebook to write about their life in story form. The goal is to write two to three pages before passing the notebook on to someone else. That person writes their story and then passes it on again.

        At Christmas, the book is pulled out and the tales are read. Each year, the book is themed. So, one year the book could be titled Embarrassing Moments, another year you could have Adventures, and so on. The themes are voted on or pulled from a hat during Christmas. You could even do this online, instead of sending a notebook everywhere and you could self-publish your own book at the end of each year. This is a great way for the family to come together and learn about each other’s lives.

        4. The Pic Challenge

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          Create a group on Flickr (or any other photo site) for your family. Throughout the year, each family member uploads one or two of their craziest, silliest, or weirdest photos. At Thanksgiving, the pictures are pulled up and the family has to guess what the person was doing or where they were when the picture was taken.

          The person who gets the closest to the truth is awarded a collage of the images that were taken that year. There’s so much you could do with this. Why not make the prize a blanket with all the pictures printed on it? Or you could do a canvas bag or even a coffee mug.

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          5. The Family Blog

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            Create a blog for your family. You can do this easily through wordpress, blogspot, or any other platform that you’re comfortable with. Schedule posts once a week for each family member until the year is done.

            When it’s your turn, write about what is going on in your life, add pictures, or even videos. Really, the possibilities are endless. At the end of the year, your whole family will have something to look back on and enjoy.

            6. A Day In The Life Of

            day-in-the-life

              Create a channel on snapchat and assign a family member one day out of the year to do video updates throughout the day. You’ll have to make sure they log into your family’s channel to do the video and that they tag you as well so that you can save the videos for the holidays.

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              Once everyone has had a turn, start the cycle over. At the end of the year, compile all of your saved videos and send out copies. You and your family will love getting to see glimpses into everyone’s lives.

              7. The Hello Package

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                I saved my favorite for last. The Hello Package is literally what it sounds like. To start off, one person picks sends out three things: a postcard with a hello message, a small item that means something to them, and an item that means something to the person they’re sending the package to.

                The items themselves don’t have to be big and they can be representative of something else, like a keychain with a german shepherd on it or a magnet with a motivational message. The next person to get the package adds to it and sends it on, leaving what they received in the package as well. The package continues to get added to and sent out until the last person receives a big bundle of knickknacks and postcards. During Christmas, the postcards can be collaged and the knickknacks passed around. Then you can start the whole process over again.

                I hope these seven tips help to bring you and your family closer. Your family is your tribe, the ones who support you the most and connection with them helps keep you in an emotionally healthy state. Hopefully, this holiday season you and your family will have a few new traditions to try out.

                Featured photo credit: wikimedia.org via upload.wikimedia.org

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                Jessica Willing

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                Last Updated on October 14, 2020

                The Art of Humble Confidence

                The Art of Humble Confidence

                To be confident or not to be confident, that is the question. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been a bit confused about all this discussion about the subject of confidence. Do you really need to be more confident or should you try to be more humble? I think the answer is both – you just have to know where to use it.

                East VS West – Confidence, It’s a Cultural Thing

                In typical Western countries, the answer to the confidence debate is obvious – more is better. Our heros are rebellious, independent and shoot first, ask questions later. I think this snippet of dialog from The Matrix sums it up best:

                Agent Smith – “We’re willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. All that we’re asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known terrorist to justice.”
                Neo – “Yeah. Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal. But I think I may have a better one. How about, I give you the finger”
                [He does]
                Neo -“ …and you give me my phone call.”

                In Eastern countries, the tone is often considerably different. Elders are supposed to be revered not dismissed. The words ‘guru,’ meaning a teacher, and the philosophy of dharma, loosely translated to mean ‘duty,’ come from here. In Eastern cultures humility and respect are more important than confidence.

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                These perspectives are generalizations, but it shows how the confidence debate goes back deep into our culture. I think that both extremes of pure confidence or pure humility are misguided. Instead of rectifying this situation by simply blending the two: becoming somewhat humble, somewhat confident all the time, I believe the answer is to know when to be confident and when to be humble.

                Humble Confidence – Know When to Use It

                I’m going to make another broad generalization. I believe that virtually every relationship you are going to have is going to fit into one of two major archetypes, either master or student. In peer relationships this master/student role may switch frequently, but it is extremely rare that the relationship never leans to one side.

                In the master role, you are displaying confidence to get what you want. This is public speaker, leader or seducer. Being the master has advantages. You have more control and ability to influence from this role.

                The student role is the opposite. You are intentionally displaying humility. This is the student, disciple or follower. Being the student has advantages too. You can learn a lot more in this role and are more likely to win the trust of the other person.

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                Know When to Shut Up and Learn

                If you are a typical Westerner, you are probably already thinking about which role you prefer. Being the leader is great. You get respect and a higher status. Most of all you get a greater degree of control.

                But the problem is that you can’t and shouldn’t always try to be the leader. Trying to assume that role without the skills, resources or status to back it up will lead to conflict. More importantly, there are many times when you purposely want to display humility. Some of the benefits to the student role include:

                • You learn more.
                • Smooths relationships.
                • Makes others more willing to lend a helping hand.

                Knowing when taking the humble route is to your advantage. It is far easier to get mentors and advisors if you use humility rather than arrogance. A small sacrifice to your ego can open up the potential to learn a lot.

                Confidence to Persuade, Humility to Learn

                In reality almost no relationship is as clearly defined as master/student. Within our connections, people have overlapping areas of expertise. I might be an expert in blogging to a non-blogger, but they might be an expert in finance. In each area there are different roles to take.

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                Before any interaction ask yourself what the purpose is. Are you trying to learn or persuade?

                Persuasion requires confidence. If you are trying to sell, instruct or lead you need to display the confidence to match your message. But learning requires humility. You won’t learn anything if you are constantly arguing with your professors, mentors or employers. Taking a dose of humility and temporarily making yourself a student gives you the opportunity to absorb.

                Persuade Less, Learn More

                Persuasion is great for immediate effect, but learning matters over the long-haul. Instead of washing over all your communication with pure confidence, look for opportunities to learn. Persuading someone to follow you may give you an immediate boost of satisfaction, but it doesn’t last. Learning, however, is an investment for the future.

                Whenever I make a connection with someone and realize they have a skill or understanding I want, I am careful to express humility in that area. That means listening with what they say even if I don’t immediately agree and being patient with their response. This method often drastically cuts down the time I need to spend on trial and error to learn by myself.

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                Confidence/Humility Doesn’t Replace Communication Skills

                This approach of selectively using confidence and humility for different purposes doesn’t replace communication skills. Humility isn’t going to work if the other person thinks you’re an irritating whiner. Confidence won’t work if the entire room thinks you are an arrogant jerk. Knowing how to display these two qualities takes practice.

                The next time you are about to enter into an interaction ask yourself why you are doing it. Are you trying to persuade or learn? Depending on which you can take a completely different tact for far better results.

                Featured photo credit: BBH Singapore via unsplash.com

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