There’s a strange social phenomenon that happens.
If you bump into a friend who you haven’t seen in a while, you often struggle to get the conversation off the ground.
But if you talk to someone who you see all the time, even if you’re not that close, you have a lot to say to each other. For example, if you’re talking to a childhood friend who you haven’t spoken to in a few months, you probably aren’t going to bring up the dynamite salad you ate the other day or that you finally beat your kid in Uno.
But if it’s someone you see on a regular basis, it would be a perfectly normal thing to say — and oftentimes these minor life details serve as a launching pad into more fluid future conversations.
Fortunately, thanks to author Gretchen Rubin’s mom, there’s an easy yet brilliant fix for this: recruit either your family or friends into forming an email chain under the moniker “It’s okay to be boring,” where every few days you send a quick email to each other with life’s most mundane occurrences.
According to Gretchen, since her mom suggested doing this their family has not only felt more connected. But these simple weekly messages help them to ease more naturally into conversations when they do find time to talk.
And the best part is you don’t even need to reply to the messages people send. Just simply keep their thoughts in mind so the next time you do talk you have a few places to jump off from so you don’t fall into the standard “What’s up with you?” “Not much. What’s up with you?” type conversations.
“It’s better to have more frequent, natural communication than saving it up for when there is something major to report. Because that’s not how real relationships work. Relationships respond to being in touch with people.” — Gretchen Rubin
Like Gretchen and her family, two of my childhood friends and I have been sending the most boring emails we can possibly write to each other for the last few months.
I’m not going to bore you with the details because I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear about the progress my buddy Josh has made on his deck or that my son Luc hit me in the eyes with a lego.
But true to Gretchen’s word this simple act has helped to get our conversations off the ground. Not only that but we are also talking more often (which is something we hadn’t figured out how to do since I moved to Spain a decade ago).
If you too are feeling a bit isolated during these weird times, give boring emails a shot for yourself. Start by simply running the idea by a few of your friends or family members and encourage them to take just two minutes a week to drop in minor details about their lives. You may be surprised by how much they’re up for it.
Maybe it’s about a new board game you tried. Or maybe it’s simply you didn’t have the energy to do the laundry this week. It doesn’t matter what you write — just be human and give them a peek into your day-to-day life.
Who knows? You may find that by embracing “small-email-talk,” you not only feel more connected to people. But when the world opens up again it makes it easier to have more meaningful conversations.
This article first appeared on Medium.