How many times have you said, "let's stay in touch," and then never followed up? How many email threads have you concluded with, "please keep in touch," with no further messages in the chain? In common use, the phrases "keep in touch" or "stay in touch" have lost almost all meaning. They are sugar coating that make us feel good about the intention of following up without a real plan to make it happen.
Keep In Touch Meaning
Keep in touch means to stay involved in someone's life. It means to show up. The phrases "keep in touch" or "stay in touch" originate from 18th century marching drills, where soldiers needed to stay close enough to touch shoulders with their companions in order to maintain formations.1
Why is it so important to keep in touch?
Showing up in someone's life lets them know they're important enough for you to spend five minutes (even five seconds) to reach out and let them know you're thinking of them. Creating these micro touch points lets people know at a conscious and subconscious level that you're there and you care. The key point here is that people are not expecting you to be deeply involved in their lives at every juncture. They do, however, want to brush shoulders with you every once in a while. If you want to see how to do this well, check out Connection Takes Five Minutes.
How do you actually mean it when you say "let's keep in touch"?
1) Start with "Hi"!
Many people get stopped by feeling like they need a reason to reach out. Often getting started is the hardest part. It can be as simple as sending a message like "Hi! How are you?" A quick message takes off the pressure and allows the other person the opportunity to go into as much or as little detail as they want. At Call Your Friends, we regularly hear from people that feel they need a reason to reach out, or fear their friends don't want to be bothered. Our response is that checking in is reason enough, and you don't get to control how they respond. All you can control is whether or not you're the one taking action to reach out. If they truly don't want to be bothered, then they simply won't respond (and that's just fine!). Sometimes, all we need is to start.
2) Make a call
The easiest way to make a genuine connection is a call. This could be a phone call, video call, or whatever works best. Text messages are great, meeting up in person is even better, but the easiest way to make a genuine connection in the least amount of time is to make a call. It's often helpful to reach out in advance to find a good time, but sometimes the best time is right now. As with sending a message, if the other person can't take your call, then that's just fine and they simply won't answer. This is about sparking connections, not guaranteeing they will happen. Often just hearing a friend or family member's voice can put a completely different spin on your day (and theirs), and finding five minutes to talk with a friend might just be what you (or they) need right now.
3) Send an email
A thoughtful email goes a long way towards opening the doors to connection. A good catch up email includes a few updates from your own life, genuine curiosity about what's going on in your friend's life, and perhaps an offer for further connection. It could be as simple as, "Hey! Thinking of you and wondering how you're doing" or a feature-length episode of what's happened since the last time you spoke. The great thing about email, or any written form of communication for that matter, is that it provides an amazing opportunity to reflect. This could be helpful in making sense of your own life, sharing what you appreciate about your friendship, or creating an invitation for your friend to share their stories.
4) Write a postcard
If you feel like standing out, something that can really surprise and delight is sending a postcard. Can your remember the last handwritten card someone sent to you? We definitely can. It stands out because these days we expect instant gratification. By contrast, someone taking the time to physically carve a message on a page, stick a postage stamp to it, travel to the mailbox, and then wait patiently for you to receive it feels unbelievable, and downright special. This is a beautiful way to keep in touch. Much like email, writing gives you the opportunity to slow down and really reflect on what you want to say or ask. If you need a line on some really epic postcards, we love the designs at The Postcard Maven (created by a friend of ours!)
5) Plan a friend date
Nothing replaces seeing our friends and loved ones in person. At a time when this has been difficult, we can't wait to actually start seeing friends and family again. Planning a friend date creates a space to connect and enjoy some seriously quality time with the people we love. This could be walks, hikes, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks, sports, (jorts? as in let's make jorts together) or anything in between. If your goal is to really connect with someone, set up some time to actually get together. There is no greater gift you can give than your presence.
The next time you say "let's keep in touch," find a way to actually make it happen. This might be a reminder to get in touch next year (you can set this up with Call Your Friends!), or it might be something more immediate. Your personal community is built out of the effort and intention you put into it. When you take a backseat to this and rely on "spontaneous" connections, you will find yourself marching far apart from people you really care about. Actually mean it when you say "let's keep in touch", you'll be delighted by the connections you create.
- In Touch. The Idioms. (n.d.). https://www.theidioms.com/in-touch/.