MAY 28, 2020

On staying connected

BY OLEEN FLORENDO
ILLUSTRATION BY GIAN NICDAO

Elevate conversations with your friends this quarantine through these tips.

Here’s how it usually works: it’s a Wednesday, and you’ve struck up a conversation with some of your workmates, maybe even scheduled a hangout with your friends on a Friday night. It all feels normal until it isn’t, because this time around, you’ve been doing it virtually for a little more than two months now, and frankly ⁠— everyone’s still trying to work their way around it.

Times are hard. With everything happening in the world, it’s only natural to feel unsure of how to navigate life, let alone learn how to properly communicate with friends while dealing with your own struggles. Some may find it hard to figure out what exactly they’re feeling, making it more difficult to confide with anyone, while others are just waiting for someone to check in on them.

Thing is, staying connected with friends is the least we could do for each other’s mental health, and this pandemic is a reminder not to take these relationships for granted. So, here’s what you can do to upgrade your online interactions during the quarantine (whichever version your place may be in).

Dear friend, how are you, really?

People have a tendency to encapsulate what they feel with “I’m okay”, but simplifying it this way doesn’t always help. Figuring out how to reach out to a friend can be tricky, the how-are-yous can feel intimidating, so starting with a question of “What have you been up to lately?” can help hit it off. Learning the habits and routines they’ve been doing can allow you to have a glimpse of their state of mind at the present. It also opens more room for conversation, and an opportunity to let them know you’re there for them.

Virtual love languages 101

Put yourself in your friends’ situation to adapt to the kind of communication they would appreciate and understand. It’s usually different for everyone, and it’s important to be emotionally tuned and intuitive to what they’d want and need. For some, simple check-ins in their inbox can already make a difference. But feeling cared for can also be felt through memes, a link to a funny YouTube video, a new song recommendation, or even a short video call. Remember: support comes in different forms.

Validation is the name of the game

When a friend starts opening up, the usual response is to try and solve it to make them feel better, but earnestly listening is even more important. A piece of advice isn’t always essential ⁠— most of the time, they just have to hear that their feelings are completely valid and they’re understood. Family dynamics vary from each household, and there could also be unsettled inner battles before the quarantine started, so it’s vital for them to feel your support. Communicating validation can be done through reflecting their feelings in your replies, and acknowledging that their emotional reactions are understandable. 

SOS! Human interaction needed!

Check on friends who are living on their own, quarantine can be isolating already for those with companions, but imagine how harder it is for those who are alone. Give friends a distraction from their thoughts by inviting them to a Netflix Party, or plan to stream the comeback of your favorite artists while live updating each other. Doing online activities together can already lessen the loneliness, even better is when you allow each other to indulge in each other’s pop-culture fascination, whether it’d be K-Dramas, Dua Lipa’s newest album, or Animal Crossing tips. Anything to keep each other’s sanity afloat.

Learning the cycle of hellos

We get it, you might be feeling apprehensive about reaching out too often, afraid you might appear too overbearing or worse, pressure your friend to an uncomfortable situation. So, what’s a good rule of thumb when checking in on your friends? At least a message once a week would be great, but if you feel that frequent communication uplift yours and your friend’s spirit, go ahead and pop in more than once in a while as long as your inner peace remains intact.

Circling back to yourself

You may have also received your fair share of different versions of “How are you?”, and may have also felt the discomfort from this question. Truth is, there’s no easy way to answer given the situation. But being honest with our feelings means we’re able to confront our pains and take off some of the load. A good way to create more meaningful conversations is through having online dinners together. Food opens up space for connecting and talking, or you can play a round of the card game, We’re Not Really Strangers. Its creator made a quarantine edition pack to deepen relationships and conversations during this trying time. You can download it for free here.