After three years of living a 24-hour flight away from most of my closest friends, voice notes have become my number one love language. Crafting a good one has become my favorite sharable skill.
It was my friend Gina—a former colleague and now an extremely close friend—who first sent me a voice note over Facebook. We hadn’t spoken much in the year or so since I’d left Australia for New York, until one day I opened my phone to find a stream of voice messages. It was both the most unexpected and most delightful turning point in that friendship—in any of my friendships. Since then we’ve gone through periods of daily voice notes and others when we’ll take a few weeks to reply. Sometimes one of us will send a short, three-minute update. Other times, I’ll settle into my couch to prepare for a 45-minute monologue of life updates. These long and delightfully rambling voice messages are my favorite: an exploration into a friend’s stream of consciousness.
Since my introduction to voice notes, I’ve recommended them to as many people as possible. By now, most of my friends have sent or received a voice note—over Facebook, WhatsApp, iMessage, whatever—which is something that brings me great joy. However, not all voice notes are created equal. These are my top tips for making yours a treat for the ears.
1. Start each message by setting the scene
Most of my voice notes start like this: “Hi, I’m just walking home from *insert place* and it’s *insert weather*.” People may say that talking about the weather is boring, but according to me, those people are wrong. Go on, build out that environment: Hearing that someone is sitting in the sunniest corner of their apartment or lying on their bed helps make it feel like you’re where you should be—in the same space, together.
2. Even if you feel awkward, embarrassed, or weird—don’t say it!
No offense to *checks voice notes* almost all of my friends, but the worst way to start a voice note is by expressing how awkward you feel sending a voice note. Feel your feelings, sure, but don’t let them ruin a message. Saying you feel weird isn’t going to make your first message feel any less weird, so bite your tongue and get into the juicy stuff.
3. Talk about one thing you did that day before you ask any general questions
The magic of the note lies in the fact that it’s shorter than a phone call, but easier to produce than a text. But—like phone calls and text messages—they can fall victim to uninspiring small talk and an endless back and forth of “How are you?” and “How’s work?” until one person stops replying. The voice note secret sauce is sharing something fun you did that day. What did you see out the window this morning? (Two older people having a sweet conversation at least eight feet apart!) What did you cook? (Banana bread!) What incredibly weird thing did you dream about last night? (That I was going to every library in the city trying to find the first Harry Potter book!) See? Delightful!
4. Don’t feel the pressure to have a formal sign-off
I normally end my voice notes by screaming, Annnnyyywayyyy BYE! until my one-minute Facebook time limit runs out. (I’m not recommending you take this approach, but I’m also not not recommending it.) Ending a voice note with a very serious sign-off doesn’t always feel right, especially when you’re trying to get into a habit of sending them regularly. So, have fun with it! End on a dramatic pause! Sing a song! Read a haiku aloud! Or, you know, just say “Talk soon” and end that sucker right there before you have time to overthink it.
Have more tips? Send them my way!
Graphics by Lorenza Centi.
The MR Thoughtline is here! Starting this week, we’ll be sending out three daily text messages to light up your phone and consequently your day. You can think of it like a review with your manager, if your manager was actually your therapist, your therapist was actually your friend, your friend was actually one of us and one of us was actually you. What? Click here to learn more and subscribe. Ttysoon!