To Stay Connected, Try Being Less “Connected”

To Stay Connected, Try Being Less “Connected”

When people talk about staying connected to one another these days, we tend to think first of social media.

With Facebook and Twitter, we can stay connected all day, every day. In fact, you’ll learn what people are having for breakfast, where they’re “checking in” and see adorable photos of their pets drinking from the toilet. And after a while, a gnawing realization begins to sink in.

Ready for it?

Having information about someone is NOT the same as being connected to them. Getting together and looking in someone’s face for even a few minutes trumps months of social media. That’s not to say social media is bad. But it should be put aside for the real thing now and then.

Toyota did an ad for its Venza a while back that is the prefect embodiment of that idea. A young woman complains that her parents only have 19 friends on Facebook, while she has 687. As she sits alone in front of her laptop, she says in a monotone voice, “This is living.” Meanwhile, the ad cuts to scenes of her parents mountain biking with just a few of their living, breathing friends.

If you really want to stay connected, realize that it takes some time and effort. After all, this person is your friend, right? Remember, a Facebook “friend” is not the same as a friend.

Here are a couple ideas, most of which used to be painfully obvious.

Resist the urge to text

Pick up the phone and call when you have time and when you’re not on the run. Don’t try to catch up while you’re driving the kids to soccer (for everyone’s benefit). Do it when you can concentrate only on that conversation. Speak with and listen to and honest-to-goodness human voice.

Write a letter

Not a wall posting. Not a tweet. Not an email. While an old-school email is better than the first two, why not go older school? When’s the last time you got a letter in the mail? These days, it can be an amazing personal gesture.

Keep a calendar with birthdays, just like mom used to do

Or at the very least, keep birthdays on your electronic calendar and have it alert you several days ahead of time. Send a printed birthday card with a handwritten note. A small, inexpensive gift is also a good way to let someone know they’re important to you. Compare that to posting “Happy BD!” on their wall with the other 686 friends.

Go have coffee at a coffee shop

Yes it takes time, and yes, you have to fit it into your schedule, and yes, it’s hard to find that time to fit it into your schedule. THAT’S THE POINT!

Many people connect to old friends through LinkedIn

It’s a fantastic way to break through the ice formed over many years. But aren’t you disappointed when you receive the auto-invite from them? Personally, I find it insulting, lazy and insincere. Really, how genuine can you possibly be when you push a button that immediately produces the line “.… I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Oh, please. Yes, you can write your own personal invitation, and no, it’s not difficult to figure out how. After you’ve connected, take the opportunity to continue communicating.

Execute a drive-by baking

Or as Betty used to say, “Bake Someone Happy.” Four cupcakes and a note left on the front porch can make someone’s day. Put the treat in a container to keep from feeding the neighbor’s cat. You’ll have to get your container back later. By the way, that’s a positive, not a negative.

Food is the original social medium

Sure, you already have people over for dinner, so mix it up a bit.  Why not a few friends for a laid-back, participatory dinner. A taco bar, for example. Or hoagie bar or a pizza bar (personal pizzas made on the grill). Open cold beverages and get caught up. No sweat.

Movie night

Invite a friend over for a movie. If you can borrow a digital projector from work and show a movie on the wall, that can make the event feel unique.

Go for a walk

If you live near your friend (which certainly doesn’t imply staying connected any more), go for a walk. You’ll get some exercise while you get caught up.

Once you get rolling, you’ll have your own ideas. Still, the essential point is to show you’ve taken the effort to connect, one friend to one friend. Whether it’s through a gesture or a personal get-together, you’ll have broken through and re-energized a friendship and reminded one another why you became friends in the first place.

Family Fun: Connection & Conversation in the Hot Tub

Family Fun: Connection & Conversation in the Hot Tub

In this day and age of texting, Facebook, smartphones and the Internet, it becomes harder to unplug and spend quality time with people you love.

Or at least it is for me. Anyone else? Various studies (a few which are outlined in this Forbes article) describe how being constantly “plugged in” takes a toll on us physically, emotionally, and relationally, which can make it hard to connect in person, even with those living in the same house!

One way to recharge relations is spending quality time together in a spa. Caldera spa owners have shared that their hot tub inevitability becomes a family gathering place and conduit for conversation. Sans devices, the warm water becomes a safe haven for honesty and bonding. Caldera owners can hardly believe the positive effects a hot tub naturally has in bringing their own families together (see below).

“Another great benefit was getting the family unplugged and all together, just to talk and hear about their day as we soak in the spa. Every family needs some time like that and this product helped bring us together.”
– JM13 from New Hampshire

“This was a great choice for my family of 5. We use it 3-4 days a week. Gives us time to have family time.”
-Fdkfenn from Connecticut

Once a routine focused around meeting in your hot tub is established, conversation will spark naturally. To maximize the time together as a couple or a family, we’ve listed a few of our favorite communication tools from various experts.

Group Reflection

As an evening ritual, gather everyone in the hot tub, and ask them to share the highlight of their day, as well as a low point or challenge. Then, invite each family member to share if they need help accomplishing a goal. This could be anything from making lunches for the next day, to picking up supplies for a science project, or reading a bedtime story. Communication rituals that focus on each member of the family cultivate connection and bring everyone closer together, according to Barbara Fiese, PhD., Chair of Psychology Department at the University of Syracuse.

Ask Feeling Questions

Instead of just asking questions about school, friends or events, ask how that experience made them feel. Kids want to feel that their voices, opinions and feelings matter. By asking “how did you feel about that” you will likely get the answer you are really interested in, and your children will share more than you ever expected.

Communicate Respect in Times of Conflict

Hot tub time is an opportunity to model appropriate behavior when it comes to having a different opinion. When disagreements arise, institute a rule that responses must be communicated in the following way: “While I respect your opinion that [summarize the opposing view], in my experience [communicate perspective].” Sara Gable, a specialist in Human Development indicates that maintaining this respect, will allow you to also maintain your relationship with your child, especially through their teenage years.

Communicate by Listening

Remember being a teenager and ranting about your parents not listening or understanding your viewpoints? The one and only perspective that mattered was yours. Although your role in the situation has changed now, your teenager’s need to be heard has not. Instead of interrupting with your opinions, answers or solutions, listen. Family counselor, Carol Maxym, PhD, recommends a “50{d08558500d8945c62f975d7fb1313ca24132852f79c1e304564c6cb4e5b45d98} rule” where parents limit what they would normally say by 50{d08558500d8945c62f975d7fb1313ca24132852f79c1e304564c6cb4e5b45d98}. By focusing on listening to how a child describes their day and their feelings, you have the opportunity to better acknowledge their experience.

With these tips in mind, implement a schedule and aim for at least a few 20-minute sessions in the hot tub with your family each week with no technology. Have you seen communication thrive during your time in a hot tub? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below!