Maintaining a Long-Distance Relationship in 2020 – 16 Tips from a Communication Expert | Podcast Ep. #39

In this post, I’m going to show you EXACTLY how to maintain a long-distance relationship.

(With insanely actionable tips.)

In fact, these tips help me with maintaining a long-distance relationship with my family in Russia while I’m in Canada:

video-call-skype

Let’s dive right in.

1. Just pick up the phone…
2. … But do video calls when you can
3. Don’t overthink it
4. Slow down
5. Make deliberate pauses
6. Stop loneliness
7. Pay attention to physical tension
8. Stop misunderstanding
9. Let people talk (and they’ll love you)
10. Talk like a radio pro
11. Dial up your charisma
12. Anything but a poker face, please
13. Let them see the stuff of your life
14. Draw a line between love and everything else
15. Write letters (seriously)
16. Send Valentine Day cards

Companion audio

I talked to a communication expert Lauren Sergy.

She shared a lot of practical tips that you can start using right away.

Listen to her interview if you don’t want to read:

1. Just pick up the phone…

This is the easiest way.

It doesn’t need to be through fancy conference apps.

Don’t make it overly complicated in your mind.

Most people are hanging out by the phone, waiting to hear someone.

It also became unusual for us to have long voice-only conversations. And it can be quite lovely.

Example:

Lauren likes to multitask, especially with kids at home.

She will talk to your mom while unloading the dishwasher or doing laundry.

That’s also a productivity tip right there!

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 01 Pick up the phone

2. … But do video calls when you can

Making a quick phone call is good but it’s important to lay eyeballs on each other, too.

That’s the reason why the usage of video chat apps rose during the COVID-19 pandemic:

video-chat-apps-pandemic

So get a basic app such as FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, or Skype depending on your device.

It’s important to see expressions of the person you’re talking to.

That’s how you can connect at a deeper level.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 02 Do video calls

3. Don’t overthink it

When it comes to staying in touch even five minutes matters.

Use those little chunks of time to connect.

Don’t think you can’t make a call just because you don’t have half an hour.

And also don’t worry about your camera too much.

Making the actual call is what’s most important for maintaining a long-distance relationship.

03 Don’t overthink it

4. Slow down

The difference between Internet-based and face-to-face communication lies in non-verbal cues.

In a video call, you’re cut off from the shoulders up.

And if you see someone on the phone, it’s a smaller image.

A lot of nuances of non-verbal communication fall away.

Cues such as when it’s your turn to speak and so on.

As a result, we’re more likely to interrupt one another.

Which is frustrating and can dissuade us from connecting online.

That’s why slowing down helps a lot.

Speak slower especially if the other person is on a line with a lot of interference or low bandwidth.

04 Slow down

5. Make deliberate pauses

Making pauses is difficult because many people dislike silence.

We want to fill in the pause.

But a pause allows the other person to speak.

Be deliberate with them by taking breaths:

  • Breathe in
  • Breathe out
  • Breathe in
  • And then speak again unless the other person says something

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 05 Pause deliberately

6. Stop loneliness

When people are alone at home, being together with someone online can make a difference.

It doesn’t even need to involve talking.

So yeah, tell a friend or a colleague that you need company.

Ask them to hang out with you and you don’t need to talk.

There’s comfort in seeing them on the screen, making you feel less lonely.

Example:

Lauren went to a piano bar with her husband once.

They were just sitting there without talking to each other, enjoying their drink and listening to music.

And another couple asked them if they were reading each other’s minds.

The truth was, they didn’t need to fill the night with chatter.

06 Stop loneliness

7. Pay attention to physical tension

Physical tension is another non-verbal cue.

  • Is the other person shifting a lot, indicating they’re uncomfortable?
  • Are their shoulders tense?

Make the image bigger or watch more closely.

You’ll see if the other person gets uncomfortable.

With that feedback, you can adjust what you’re saying or how you’re saying it.

07 Physical tension

8. Stop misunderstanding

When you read a message, your brain inserts the melody of words, or vocal expression.

But the first voice that you hear might not be the intended voice.

So if you react badly to a message, you might be inserting the wrong intonation in your head.

Be a little more cautious interpreting written stuff.

If it seems aggressive, read it out loud.

You’ll then notice the intonation you’re adding.

And then say it differently, e.g., in a happy tone.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 08 Stop misunderstanding

9. Let people talk (and they’ll love you)

Don’t interrupt the other person.

When you give them the space to speak without interrupting, they might go for 15 minutes at a time.

  • As a result, they’ll say things they didn’t think of before.
  • They’ll become more self-aware.
  • They’ll feel heard out (which feels great).
  • And you’ll learn more about them.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 09 Let people talk

10. Talk like a radio pro

Lauren had a radio career and worked to develop enunciation during that time.

She did short promotional slots for advertisers.

People were listening to them in their cars, with a lot of background noise.

Pronouncing everything clearly was very important.

And she made sure to work her mouth when she spoke.

So yeah, how clearly you say your words matters.

Put in a little more effort to pronounce individual consonants or vowels.

Practical tip:

  1. Take a wine cork or a carrot.
  2. Stick it between your teeth, a centimeter and a half into your mouth.
  3. Then say tongue-twisters, enunciating things as clearly as you can. It’ll work the muscles needed for clearer speech.

10 Talk like a pro

11. Dial up your charisma

Being more expressive on video calls is crucial if you want to engage the other person.

That’s because people can’t read you as subtly as in-person.

There’s a little element of performance to this—as if you are on stage. Amplify things.

Dial it up just a few notches and you’ll boost your charisma.

That said, a big part of charisma is also feeling that mental connection:

I get you, you get me, and we’re in this together. I’m letting you into my inner world.

Use expressiveness and body language for creating that connection and maintaining a long-distance relationship.

11 Dial up charisma

12. Anything but a poker face, please

The facial expression is one of those non-verbal cues.

  1. If you want to sound happy, make a big grin. As your facial expression brightens, the words become a little bit tighter. The voice may pitch up a little bit, too.
  2. If you’re not a natural smiler, raise your eyebrows to show you’re paying attention. Eyebrow flash is one of the universal signals for interest and attention.
  3. Practice expressions in front of a mirror (Hint: A good post-shower activity.)
  4. Put the camera away from you so that the other person sees your facial expression more easily. Look straight into the camera.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 12 No poker face

13. Let them see the stuff of your life

No, you don’t need to create a different persona for online communication.

You don’t have to look polished and refined. It’s a common myth.

People want to connect with you because they like you and not because your kitchen is spotlessly clean.

Practical tips:

  • Have a presentable background but let them see a personal photo.
  • If it’s friends and family, let them see a messy kitchen.
  • If it’s work, let them see pictures of your kids. It adds a new dimension to your work relationship because they’ve never seen that side of you before.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 13 Stuff of life

14. Draw a line between love and everything else

Couples can use a separate communication format for all things related to their romantic relationship.

For example, create email addresses that only two of you know.

And use them to talk only about your love.

Discuss your daily tasks elsewhere.

Separating love and everything else brings back novelty, surprise, and excitement.

That’s what boosts your passion.

That said, how about throwing creative offline communication in the mix?

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 14 Separate love

15. Write letters (seriously)

Writing letters is great for maintaining a long-distance relationship (LDR).

You normally talk to the other person through video and then, boom, they get a letter.

And they feel excited and significant immediately.

Example:

Lauren made her kids send letters to their great grandparents in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

It lighted their folks up.

We all love surprise and getting a letter in the mail is exactly that.

In the age of online communication, the fine art of letter writing can be revived.

So yeah, make the other person feel special to develop a stronger bond with them.

Maintaining a Long Distance Relationship - 15 Write letters

16. Send Valentine Day cards

This year, Lauren sent Valentine Day cards instead of Christmas ones.

I sent them to my colleagues, friends, and clients.

And they loved it! (“I actually got a Valentine.”)

It’s delightful because there’s this physical element to it.

Holding something that the other person touched and put together.

It’s a great way to maintain that personal relationship with people in our network.

16 Valentine Day cards

About Lauren Sergy

Lauren Sergy is a public speaking and communication expert who specializes in maintaining a long-distance relationship, among other things.

She has helped thousands of people across Canada, the US, and Europe, improve their interpersonal communication skills, empowering them to be more effective leaders and more powerful communicators. She works with a variety of clients from large corporate firms to small not-for-profits, universities, and government workers.

Lauren has a Masters in Library and Information Studies and teaches business communication at the University of Alberta. She has been interviewed numerous times on TV and radio, and her book, The Handy Communication Answer Book, was named one of the Best Reference books of 2017 by Library Journal.

Lauren hails from Edmonton, Alberta with her endlessly patient husband and two energetic kids.

Lauren’s links

Maintaining a long-distance relationship with coaching

Did any of these tips resonate with you?

Becoming aware of your blind spots is a great place to start.

But it doesn’t mean you’ll fix them.

Making changes to our relationships makes us uncomfortable.

As a relationship coach, I help clients make those changes more easily.

Do you want to stop loneliness?

Do you want to connect to your loved ones in a meaningful way?

If yes, let’s have a no-fee relationship breakthrough session.

Contact me now to get started. Here’s a link.

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