Maintaining a Great Long-Distance Friendship Is Possible

by Helene Malmsio

Sandra and Sue at the 55's Village where we met

Sandra and Sue at the 55's Village where we met

I met my best friend in an Over 55's Village in Sebastapol. When I was inspecting the units (one for me and one for my dad Gunnar) the manager Sue said to me, "I know a brand new person who will move in next week, that you will really get along well with!" and she was absolutely right!

Apart from the fact that we were both part of only a small handful of people not in their 80's and 90's being a big help I guess - LOL - we did seem to click immediately.

And in the years since then we have become fast friends and supported each other through many tribulations.

The worst day was when I decided I would have to go back to Maryborough and give up on selling the house and moving to Melbourne, and at that time Sandra decided to move up to Dubbo NSW to live near her sister.

After she moved out I didn't expect our friendship to last for more than the casual Christmas and Birthday cards I sent to so many people with vague best wishes, but very little contact in between.

But somehow over the last 6 years it remained strong and has developed into a weekly phone call, sometimes two phone calls a week. And we are as tight as ever.

Right now I'm going through the crisis of my 12 yo cat Ziggy suffering from a heart condition and being hospitalized, and Sandra is calling me a couple of times a day to get updates and to comfort me. That is the kind of friendship that is valuable beyond price.

This doesn't happen by chance though... long-distance friendships do require some mindfulness and attention to each other's needs.

If you are worried about losing the depth of friendship from someone dear to you moving away, consider some tips here and see if you might find some of them useful to try out.

Good friends are very hard to find, so its worth every effort to ensure it becomes stronger than ever over the years, and not let distance weaken it.

So, what if you or your best friend in the world is about to become a long-distance friendship, can you stay close to a friend who lives miles away?

Holding onto old friends gives you the stability of having someone in your life who knew you at different stages of development. I still have contact with friends I went to school with decades ago.

Any relationship will have more value when you choose it deliberately, rather than just hanging out together with someone simply because it’s convenient.

General Principles for Maintaining a Long-Distance Friendship:

1. Embrace change.

It’s natural to grieve when a close friend moves away. Remember that relationships shift over time, and the transformation may be positive. You could wind up valuing each other even more.

2. Be intentional.

You will need to work harder at staying in touch and making specific plans.

A precious friendship is worth the investment of time and thought.

I've always found that even a quick regular weekly phone call will help keep the relationship current to events.

3. Act natural.

At the same time, you can overdo it. Enjoy ordinary conversation and pleasures instead of feeling compelled to come up with big news and adventures.

4. Type less.

Texting is convenient but choose a more personal touch when possible. Try video calls and handwritten notes.

Plan to get together in person whenever you can manage to be in the same area.

5. Build support.

As much as you love your remote pals, you need contacts in your own time zone too. Keep making friends close to home.

Specific Strategies for Maintaining a Long-Distance Friendship:

1. Share activities.

Friendships usually involve doing the same thing in the same place, but they can also handle multiple locations.

Play games online or read the same book so you can discuss it when you call.

We used to play Rummikins or scrabble for hours on end, so now I should check out some of the online scrabble games and see if we can coordinate some play time together!

2. Take vacations.

Coordinate your leave time. Plan exotic getaways or visit each other at home.

Enjoy having a free place to stay when you’re out of town.

3. Use snail mail.

Send cards for no occasion or write a letter. Let your friend know that you’re thinking of them.

I create and send handmade greeting cards that I post to Sandra, and know it will cheer her up when she sees it in her letterbox.

4. Think local.

Keep your friend up to date on what’s going on where you live.

Forward an interesting news story or your review of a new Korean restaurant.

5. Schedule standing dates.

You’re more likely to be consistent if you adopt a regular schedule.

Call each other on Wednesday evenings or Sunday mornings.

6. Take pictures.

Make it easy for your friend to envision your life. Take a group photo with your office buddies.

Post a picture of you attending a concert or your daughter’s soccer game.

I send her pictures of my cat Sookie because Sandra is the only person that Sookie has ever come racing down the hallway to greet whenever she heard her voice. In 12 years she has never responded to anyone else that way, including me!

7. Go into detail.

You may need to provide more context when you’re talking with a friend you don’t see often.

Fill in the background and explain how you’re feeling.

I send very detailed emails to her between our phone calls, because sometimes we end up talking over the top of each other - LOL - so my emails break down all the nitty gritty little things I wanted her to know.

8. Share your calendar.

The logistics can become complicated when you have lots of mutual friends spread out around the country or across the world.

Consider creating a group calendar to help you keep track.

9. Send gifts.

Your friends will love receiving surprise presents from you.

Present them with a gift certificate so you can buy them a cup of coffee or help decorate their home.

If you’re the DIY type, knit them a scarf or bake them some cookies that you can ship overnight.

Long distance friendships can thrive. Make a commitment to putting in the necessary effort and seize each opportunity to get together face to face.

Don't lose the friendship of someone who you cherish. I'm still heartbroken by a couple of friendships that were very dear to me, but I simply could not maintain no matter how hard I tried to keep the flames fueled... they just petered out and I guess my Use By date came up and my friendship was no longer needed or valued by those people.

Oh well. I'm so glad this friendship is stronger than ever, and I can heartily recommend that you do whatever it takes to learn how to keep your best friend close to your heart.

Have you had to deal with this sort of problem before?

What was or is your biggest issue?

How do you handle it – or can you think of any additional tips you can share with others if you don’t have an issue with this in your life?

Share them with us in our Comments – or share this blog post on Twitter or Facebook or wherever you feel it could help someone you know.

Cheers, Helene Malmsio

Related Reading:

We all want to feel like we belong. When our sense of belonging becomes affected and destroyed by trauma or other factors, we need to find a way to regain it.

It’s common to want to feel a sense of belonging. When we belong, we are accepted as a member of the group.

When you feel like you belong, you feel your life has value and you cope with your emotions better.

Sometimes though, we lose our sense of belonging.
This can be for a myriad of reasons. Traumatic events could influence a person’s self esteem and self-compassion.

Trauma often leaves survivors feeling out of sync with the rest of the world.

They feel lonely, overwhelmed, anxious, turmoil and emotional pain that creates a sense they are different.

As humans we are social beings. Our relationship quality is affected by our mental, physical and emotional health.

As researcher and author Brené Brown explains, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women, and children.

We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.”

One way to help regain a sense of belonging is through kindness. Kindness releases the feel-good hormone.

It makes you feel happier and improves your mood. Here are some ways to regain your sense of belonging.

• Contribute to the lives of others by offering to listen and be a sounding board for them. This not only brings them joy but will give you a feeling of connectedness.

• Have compassion for others who are different for you. Spend time helping others who are less fortunate, have different likes or needs than you.

• Let go of judgments that build walls. Instead focus on people by connecting with them. No one is perfect. We all have struggles.

• Be kind in your words and way of thinking. Use words that offer strength, compassion, acceptance and caring.

• Begin building healthy relationships with others using kindness. Healthy relationships are important to our sense of well-being.

• Give and receive compliments with kindness.

• Be compassionate of others who are suffering.

• Begin doing things that bring you joy. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Give your time at a soup kitchen.

• Be kind to yourself instead of always putting yourself down. Take a compliment for what it truly is - an act of genuine caring and kindness.

• Join groups or clubs that are interesting to you. Participate in discussions and be kind to those who are members.

Kindness to both yourself and to others is one of the easiest ways to begin gaining your sense of belonging back. Give it a try!

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Tips Shy People Can Use to Make More Friends
by: Helene

Not everyone is naturally outgoing and gregarious, easily making new friends everywhere they go! In fact, most people struggle to make new friends, but it can be even more challenging for those that are shy.

But even the shyest of people can have a healthy social circle with a bit of planning and practice.

Shyness can be a challenge in all social situations, but challenges can be overcome.

If you’re shy, you can make friends without giving yourself a coronary in the process.

Try these tips to make new friends:

1. Put your focus on others.

You can only be shy if you’re thinking about yourself. Being self-conscious can be crippling, so you need to get out of your own skin and focus on the other person.

If you put all of your attention on the other person, your shyness will begin to evaporate.

2. Leverage the friends you already have.

Instead of meeting complete strangers, spend more time chatting with people you already know.

Your friends might have some friends that you might like. This can be psychologically easier than meeting new people.

3. Ask questions.

With this tip, you can avoid worrying about what to say during a conversation. With a few good questions, you won’t have to say much.

Just ask an open-ended question and give the other person your attention.

Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and you don't have to agonize about making scintillating conversation.

4. Be more approachable.

Smile and say, "Hi." Just keep it simple.

Make it easy for others to approach you and to start the conversation.

5. Have a conversation plan.

Have a few good stories and conversation topics ready to go at a moment’s notice.

You’ll feel more confident and willing to talk to others.

6. Use compliments.

Everyone loves a compliment. It’s a great way to start a positive interaction.

7. Practice talking to others.

The more practice you get, the more comfortable you’ll feel. You can keep it short.

Just say hi to someone and ask a simple question, such as:

◦ Where did you get those shoes?
◦ Can you believe this weather?

8. Build your self-confidence.

Find a book on self-confidence and put the ideas into action. A lack of self-confidence contributes to shyness.

9. Maintain the friendships you have.

If you can keep the friends you already have, you won’t need to make as many new friends.

Keeping friends can be challenging, so be willing to put in the necessary work.

10. Get out of the house.

Miracles do happen, but it’s unlikely that someone is going to knock on your door and beg to be your friend.

The people you need to meet are outside of your home. Get out in the world and meet a few of them.

11. Accept invitations.

Avoid turning down any social invitations. Go to weddings, parties, and barbecues. Be social!

12. Be realistic.

It can be intimidating if you believe that you need to find 20 friends or to be the most popular person you know.

Many shy people are completely happy with a few good friends. More than that would be overwhelming.

Have a realistic plan for your social life that meets your needs.

Everyone can make friends if suitably motivated.

Shy people can find themselves with a small social circle, but it’s possible to add a couple of friends to your life without too much trouble.

Be sure to accept any opportunities to socialize. Be approachable. Ask questions. Smile.

It’s just a few basic things that pay off in a big way over time.

Set a goal of making a new friend this month and do your best to achieve it. Get out of the house and make a few friends!

Dealing with the Critics in Your Life

Whether you’re trying to save the world, lose 20 pounds, write a novel, or master a video game, there will be at least one person in your life trying to drag you across the coals for it.

There’s no way to live a meaningful life without critics, naysayers, and haters.

They’re part of the human experience. However, it’s your job to not allow them to stop you from living your life.

Follow these strategies to avoid allowing the critics in your life to influence you:

1. Find your purpose.

If you were doing something that was very important to you, you’d care far less about the criticisms of others.

If they can easily throw you off your path, you might want to consider finding another path.

Are you living your purpose? If not, determine what you want to do with your life.

2. Understand why most people are being unsupportive.

The people that criticize you are often just trying to be annoying.

They enjoy getting under your skin and being noticed. People are also hateful when you start doing well.

No one likes to be left behind or face the truth of their own mediocre existence.

◦ Few people will be supportive when you pursue big goals. Get used to it.

3. Focus on your mission.

Train yourself to be more focused and determined when criticism comes your way.

This way, the more the critics bark, the more you’ll accomplish. Most people are distracted by criticism. Don’t be like most people.

4. Notice that critics are a small part of the population.

We notice negative feedback more than we notice positive. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies.

We think there are more people working against our efforts than there really are. Most people are actually indifferent to you and your life.

5. Realize that you’re going to be criticized no matter what you do.

Whether you become a billionaire, movie star, teacher, doctor, or sit on the couch all day, there is someone that will tell you that you’re doing the wrong thing.

◦ Since you’re going to hear negative comments no matter what you do, do what matters the most to you and do your best to ignore the naysayers.

6. Respond calmly.

Avoid giving your critics the pleasure of an emotional response. Respond with kindness, and you’ll often find they soften their criticism or apologize.

If you ignore them, they’ll either become angry or bored.

7. Use your critics as motivation.

While some people are intimidated and deflated by the haters of the world, others are able to use the negative comments as a source of motivation.

Use your critics’ words as fuel for your success.

8. Decide if they have something useful to say.

Some criticism can be helpful. If you receive specific criticism, consider if it might be true. Adapt your approach if necessary.

If the criticism isn’t helpful, let it roll off your back. You have more important things to do.

9. Take criticism as a compliment.

Most people will leave you alone if you’re struggling. You only become a significant target of negative comments if you’re doing well.

If you’re taking a lot of heat, you must be doing something correct!

Avoid allowing the haters in your life to derail your plans. That’s exactly what they want!

Live your life without the need for the approval of others.

If you’re spending your time on activities that truly matter to you, the criticism you receive will have far less impact on you.

Just remember, you’re probably doing well if the critics are barking in your ear.

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