You’re having a nice conversation with your partner when it happens. You run out of things to say and suddenly both ends of the line grow completely & utterly silent.
You realize this isn’t ideal and start wracking your brain trying to find something, ANYTHING about your day that you may have missed or a witty joke that could possibly lighten the mood.
What was that last movie trailer that you wanted to see? Or that book you just finished reading? You can’t recall.
Try as you might, you draw a big fat nothing in your mind and the silence that may really only have been a few seconds starts to feel like long empty minutes.
The silence feels awkward and boring. At this point you may even decide to end the call early because you feel guilty about not being able to entertain your other half with something fun to talk about –or because the silence is simply unnerving. It’s almost as if you’ve failed the conversation.
Don’t worry. We’ve all been there.
Anyone who has ever been in a long distance relationship knows how easy it is for conversations to run dry when 80% of what you do together while apart is talk talk talk.
Some couples allow this obstacle to crumble their relationship –but the smart ones, the ones who succeed, get help and look for better ways to keep their conversations silence and awkward free.
So where can you find a simple, easy to use guide that will help your conversations to flow more smoothly?
Never fear, the ultimate guide to long distance conversations is here with 10 ways to keep you and your partner talking almost without having to think about it!
1. Prepare beforehand
Public speakers take great lengths to prepare their speeches before they go up and deliver them. Understandably, they don’t want anything to go wrong while they’re standing and talking in front of hundreds of people.
Preparation doubles or triples the chance of their presentation going well. You can apply this same idea to your conversations.
If you know that you are a little awkward and it’s hard for you think of interesting topics to naturally continue the flow of a conversation, the best thing you can do is prepare in advance.
You can do this by writing down:
- Things you’d like to share about your day
- Things you want to know about their day
- An important question you wanted to ask
- A story or event you wanted to share
There’s nothing wrong or unnatural about preparing your ideas beforehand. Some people may feel hesitant to write down a list, as if they may be cheating or taking away the naturalness of the conversation. But this really is the wrong way to look at it!
Sometimes, preparing beforehand is the best way to practice having conversation that flows well without trying to force yourself to do so. Over time you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to remember things you wanted to share, ask or talk about with your partner –no list required.
2. Collect ideas throughout the day
So you’re the type of person who can’t remember what happened during your day when you get home to talk. You can recall making a mental note to share something about your coworker or to mention something you saw on a car in the parking lot –but you just can’t remember exactly what it was. And it’s frustrating!
It might help you to know that you’re not alone. Even great writers experience the problem of forgetting great ideas to use in their work. Their brilliant solution? When inspiration hits you, immediately write it down! It’s that simple.
So when your weird coworker that smells like cat pee spills coffee all over the photocopier machine, and when your boss’ boyfriend bursts onto the scene and proposes to her, OR when you spot a hilarious license plate on a car in the parking lot –DON’T trust your brain to remember these things!
Collect the ideas and events that happen during your day by writing them down so that when the time does come to share it, you’ll have everything you need right there. Eventually, you’ll be so in the habit of forcing yourself to observe these things that remembering them will come naturally to you.
3. Share the things that seem unimportant
You have a routine that you follow, a general schedule of how you live your life. This means that 80% of the time big exciting things don’t… really… happen to you. Life is pretty every day, average and normal. You may think that something big and exciting is a trip to another country or something completely bizarre happening at school or work – but those things don’t exactly happen every day, do they?
It might surprise you to hear this, but if you think your life is boring you’re 100% wrong. That’s right, your life is not as every day, average and normal as you think. It’s time for you to shift your thinking because, believe it or not, EVERY day has something interesting to share and you never know what another person might actually find interesting.
In our example above, most people would be inclined to share the mishap with the copy machine, or the big bold exciting proposal –but how many people would share the small amusing detail of a license plate that they found hilarious? You may think that something so small wouldn’t interest another person –but then again what if it does? You’ve completely missed that chance at amusing them too because you felt it was an unimportant detail.
This goes nicely with our next tip…
4. Don’t filter yourself
Whenever you talk to someone, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re constantly judging yourself. You filter out the things that you think people wouldn’t want to hear, and try to convey thoughts that you think would interest them. And while this can be valuable in specific situations (like say business meetings, lectures, interviews, etc) It can also be detrimental to the natural flow of a conversation.
Instead of filtering yourself based on what you think the person you’re talking to will or will not like, let THEM tell you what they do and do not want to talk about in conversation. Give them a chance to show that maybe they would like to talk about that particular subject. You might find yourself surprised!
Constantly criticizing yourself while having a conversation with anyone takes your focus off of them because you are so busy focusing on beating yourself down. Don’t do this! You need to be secure that you are enough the way you are, otherwise you will block the free flow of ideas which will cause a conversation to be lumpy and unnatural. Feeling comfortable is a big factor in conversing well, filtering or criticizing yourself accomplishes the exact opposite.
5. Experience New Things
Okay, so no matter how we try to convince you, you are positive that your life simply isn’t as exciting as you’d like it to be. And while you could talk about the small mundane details of your day and maybe it could work to keep your conversations fresh, you just aren’t satisfied with that solution.
It’s now time for you to make your life interesting by going out and experiencing new things! It doesn’t have to be anything big, but something as simple as seeing a new movie, visiting a new place, or striking up a conversation with someone can bring new life to your life and by extension your conversations.
Make an effort to step outside of your usual routine and do something new every once in a while. Then you’ll have all kinds of things to share about your day to make your conversations feel like an adventure!
6. Catch Up On the Latest
A simple way to add some flare to your life (and then your conversations) is to catch up on the latest news. As one half of a “couple,” you know what you and your partner are interested in. Maybe it’s movies, music, scientific achievements, gross phenomenon or the last tech gadgets. Knowing that information tells you exactly where you need to look.
So branch out! Visit websites, read news articles or watch television to catch up on the latest news in what interests both you and your spouse. Then when the time rolls around for you to have a conversation, you’ll have tons of downloaded information to share with them –things that are interesting and easy to talk about because you already know you both share an interest in them!
7. Talk About other People’s Lives
There are lots of people we come into contact with in our everyday lives. From our closest friends and family to acquaintances and strangers we meet every day at school or work. Lots of them have awesome, wonderful exciting things going on in their lives –things they were happy to share with us and things we can share with others in conversation.
As long as you weren’t told something in confidence or aren’t spreading something that could really hurt someone, talking about some fun, cool, exciting or silly details about the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis is a cool way to inject some life into your long distance conversation! And even better: if your partner has never met the people in your life it can help them get to know the people they’ll be meeting in the future through your perspective!
8. Share Stories from other places
A team of scientists at Princeton, led by Uri Hasson, had a woman tell a story while in an MRI scanner. The areas of her brain that became active as she told her story lit up on the computer screen. They recorded her brain scans on the computer along with her voice as she told the story to them.
Later, that same team of scientists had a group of volunteers listen to the story she told through headphones while they had their brains scanned at the same time. What the scientists found was that as the volunteers listened and understood her story, the same regions of their brains lit up to correspond with her scans at the same place in her story. So when her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs!
Telling stories, real, fictional or passed down, is a way of connecting with people. It causes an involuntary bond where you experience emotions from telling the story and the listener is experiencing the same emotions just by hearing you tell it. And this is why storytelling is a super effective way to breathe life into a long distance conversation.
There is no rule that says you can’t share a funny story, experience or joke that you heard from someone else. It just doesn’t exist. So if you have a story you heard from a friend that really enjoyed hearing, do share it with your partner! It will bond you together which ultimately makes for better, more relaxed conversation. Sometimes our best tales are the borrowed ones.
9. Talk about Personal and Intimate Topics
Nothing peaks a person’s interest like hearing that you have a secret or a really guilty confession. So when you find that your conversation is growing dull, pull them back in with something as simple as “Okay, I have a really big secret to tell you.” You’ll have their attention in a heartbeat!
You can talk about anything from your most embarrassing childhood moment, to something weird that you do in private. Maybe it’s a weird hobby that you have or something you did in the past that you’ve never shared with anyone.
The key here is to tell them something just interesting enough to make them want to know more. OR it can lead to you asking if they have a similar personal intimate confession that they would like to share. Don’t kill your conversation with something that could make either of you upset though, that would backfire horribly.
Talking about intimate topics is another way to keep the conversation going. So if you’re brave enough, do talk about sex, love and everything in between. These topics will keep your long distance conversations exciting!
10. Be Flat Out Honest
Even with all of the tips above it may still be hard for you to get into the groove of easy conversation. In an ideal world all those tips would work, but sometimes nervousness, the awkwardness of the silence and other things can make it hard to apply every tip perfectly –or even remember them.
So if that’s the case for you, it’s time to be honest. If the silence is too much, and you can’t get past it, it’s okay to say “I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything to say” or “Man, my mind is drawing a blank here.” This honesty is a cue to your partner for them to pick up the “Olympic torch” and come up with something to talk about.
Conversations are a two-way street! They require give and take. So don’t feel bad if you aren’t able to carry the entire conversation. It takes two to have an awkward silence and two to create a dynamic conversation. If you’re both working to contribute to the conversation, your phone calls, skype calls and long distance conversations will never fail!
For conversational games you can play while talking together, check out Over The Line.
A book of over 50 Word Games & Activities For Long Distance Couples.
A great tool for couples whose conversations have started to become monotonous or dull!