There’s nothing more important in life than family and friends. The relationships we have are what life is made of. They are what gives purpose, pleasure, and meaning to our days. As such, it’s important that we nurture those relationships. It can be difficult to keep in touch with friends and family when life gets busy. We’re all guilty of it sometimes. And we’ve all been on the receiving end of having others not keep in touch with us. It’s crucial that we develop a way that works for us to stay connected and maintain our relationships.
A simple letter rebuilt relationships-the way I keep in touch
A few years ago, as part of my New Year’s goals, I decided to make a conscious effort to keep in touch with family and friends better. Aside from local family, I wasn’t really communicating with anyone. I had even gotten rid of my Facebook account so I had almost no contact with friends and family that lived in other parts of the country. My solution was to begin sending an annual Christmas letter.
I know it seems a little cliché and kind of cheesy, but it has turned out to be quite a valuable method of communication. Aunts and uncles I don’t see now send their own letters or cards with a short note inside. Friends send letters and photos of their family, children, or new homes. As a result, I’ve developed a closer connection with several people who I had gone years without speaking to, simply because of the distance between us or the business of our lives.
Crafting an awesome Christmas letter
Creating a great Christmas letter is super easy. It can seem daunting at first but mostly because we over think it. It doesn’t have to be long; a page is a good length. You don’t have to be perfect in grammar and punctuation. No one is grading you! Just be yourself, and write as though you were having a conversation with those you’re sending the letter to. What would you say if you were seeing them for the first time in a year?
In general, you’ll want to give a brief overview of the year noting any major events, accomplishments, or changes. Try to tell a little something about each member of your immediate family. Don’t focus too much on any one person and don’t leave anyone out entirely. There should be at least one thing to say about everyone!
- Avoid the desire to include only positive things. This is going to friends and family; you aren’t trying to impress anyone. This is not a ploy to brag. Your letter should include all relevant events of your life. Did a close relative pass away? Did someone you’re close to get diagnosed with a serious illness?
- Avoid putting in details about others unless they’re okay with it. The last point emphasized sharing everything. However, if the news isn’t about you directly, make sure that the person it is about is okay with you sharing the news with everyone on your mailing list. Someone may not be ready to tell the world about some details of their lives. Everyone is different and so is every situation. Even if it’s about your spouse or child, be sure that you clear it with them first if it’s something that is A) something that individuals outside of your immediate family would only know if you told them and B) is something very personal or C) something that they may be embarrassed about or are having a difficult time dealing with. Most of the time, it won’t be an issue, but checking first will make sure you avoid an uncomfortable situation or invade anyone’s privacy.
- Personalize it where you can. Keep any letters you received the year before. After you type up your general letter, add in questions, comments, or congratulations in response to what you received for that recipient. Modify it as many times as you need to so that each family or person gets a partially customized letter. If you didn’t receive a letter from someone, use any other information you may have heard about throughout the year. Maybe you heard through the grapevine that a faraway cousin had a baby; congratulate your aunt and uncle on their grandchild in your letter to them. If you really don’t have any new information about the recipient, go ahead and send the general letter. A letter that isn’t personalized is better than no communication at all.
- Let the recipient know that you care. Wish them happiness and joy in the new year. Hope for blessings for all of their family.
- In your closing remarks, invite the recipient to reciprocate in some way. Let them know that you would be thrilled to receive a letter back with all of their news. Invite them to come visit if they’re ever in the area. If you’re able and want to, offer them a place to stay if they ever need it. Make it obvious that despite the time that goes between seeing and speaking with each other, they are still important people in your life and that they are loved.
Alternative to a Christmas letter
I know not everyone celebrates Christmas. Or maybe the idea of adding anything to your holiday to-do list is about as exciting as swallowing a hive of bees. Either way, there are some creative alternatives you could try.
Initiate an annual letter at some other special time of the year. Other holidays where there is less pressure like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving would work well. Not only is there less pressure on you (and you don’t need to send a card with the letter!) but you may receive more responses. People are so busy during Christmas that some may intend to write one back but just never get to it.
If a full letter seems like to much, try sending cards and just including a small personal note. Even if everyone on your list only gets one or two snippets about the recent events of your life, it still triggers ongoing communication. And again, a little bit of communication is better than no communication at all. As time goes on, you can try to work your way up to a full letter. Or you might decide the short notes in the cards do the trick. Do what works for you! The important part is that you are working at making better connections.
Enjoy your renewed connections
It’s become so much easier to keep in touch than it ever was before. I no longer have that guilty feeling when I realize I haven’t seen or spoken to someone in a year or more. I can’t believe it took me so long to implement some form of consistent method to keep in touch.
It’s easy to put off doing something like this for so long because it seems so difficult. There are so many people and the prospect of fostering all of those relationships can feel daunting. But the letter was the perfect solution. So if you haven’t started trying to keep in touch with friends and family yet, now is the perfect time to start. Get your list of recipients ready, start jotting down notes for your first letter, and enjoy your renewed connections with everyone you know!
Do you write Christmas letters? If not, do you think this would help you keep in touch with friends and family better? What do you do to keep in touch and nurture distant relationships?
-To your Better Life-