We all know that strong personal relationships are crucial to our mental and emotional health. They impact our physical health intensely, too: losing a close friend or family member affects the body like smoking 15 cigarettes a day. If you’re ready to focus on strengthening your bonds in 2023 but don’t know where to start, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Remember the big milestones.
This one’s the baseline. Birthdays are the start of their new year, and a moment when they’re delighted to hear from all the people who make up their personal universe. As we get older (and fewer people are on Facebook) it becomes an increasingly impressive feat to remember a friend’s birthday…especially if you’ve planned ahead enough to send something that arrives on time! Other big moments, like buying a house, are easier to stay on top of, since it’s likely the subject of their conversation or their social media feeds. Still, they’ll feel closer to the people who took the time to recognize the moment with more than a text. (This is especially true for professional achievements that don’t have culturally standard recognition built in, in the same way that personal “accomplishments” like weddings and babies do.)
Be there in the bad times (and after other people have moved on)
When something awful happens, like a death in the family, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do or say. The good news? It’s really hard to get this wrong, so long as you reach out and speak from the heart. If you want to send a gift, a flower or food delivery is a safe bet. A handwritten card is great as well (link: here’s a template for what to say if you don’t know how to get started). But the main thing to remember is that grief continues past the acute phase. Remember the date and reach out on the anniversary of their loss; they’ll absolutely be thinking about it then, and they’ll be so grateful to know you are, too.
Keep track of the details.
Our greatest pleasure in life is being “known” by the people we care about. That’s why it feels so incredible when a friend brings over a wine they know you love, and so awful when you have to remind them of your dog’s name…again. Keep a running list of the details about the people you care about: the names of their family members, where they went on their honeymoon, etc. You can use the info to buy them great gifts, but it’ll also spark so many more opportunities for connection.
Show up sometimes “just because.”
Say hi just because you were thinking of someone. It sends the message that they’re important enough to be in your thoughts even without an “occasion.” (The more you keep track of details about your people, the easier this becomes: seeing that a new barre studio is opening downtown will remind you that a friend used to dance. Send the review her way, or suggest going together.)
Don’t underestimate handwritten cards.
Old-school? Maybe, but they’re super powerful. Think about the last time you got physical mail that wasn’t a credit card offer or a marketing flier: it’s been a while, right? If you want to strengthen a relationship, this is a clear demonstration that you care.
Don’t let relationships go because it’s “been too long.”
Ever look up and realize it’s been a really long time since you talked to someone you care about? Sometimes the temptation is to skip it altogether and let the friendship go. Our advice: don’t do it. You don’t need to apologize for the gap; everyone has a reason that life takes over. Just reach out quickly—doesn’t matter if it’s by text, phone call, or card—saying you miss them and giving a quick recap of what’s going on in your world. The new info kickstarts the conversation and prompts them to do the same. In just a few minutes, you’ll have breathed new life into a bond you thought might be over.
Admittedly, building relationships takes time and mental space…unless you have Present. We help you remember the important dates and details about the people you care about, so you can show up like the thoughtful friend you want to be, no matter how busy you are.
Sign up today and see how we help you send handwritten cards as easily as sending a text, or send a gift curated specifically for each person.