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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

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      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

                Freelance Writer

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                Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

                How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

                For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

                If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

                Example 1

                You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

                You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

                In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

                Example 2

                You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

                People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

                You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

                Example 3

                You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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                The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

                Example 4

                You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

                Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

                If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

                Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

                • Understand your own communication style
                • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
                • Communicate with precision and care
                • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

                1. Understand Your Communication Style

                To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

                In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

                Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

                2. Learn Others Communication Styles

                Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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                If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

                “How do you prefer to receive information?”

                This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

                To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

                3. Exercise Precision and Care

                A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

                On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

                Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

                I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

                I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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                In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

                The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

                Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

                4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

                Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

                In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

                “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

                Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

                Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

                It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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                It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

                It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

                Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

                Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

                The Bottom Line

                When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

                I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

                More Articles About Effective Communication

                Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

                Reference

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