We all know the adage: Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold. But let's just say that you didn't follow that maxim to a T, and now you want to reconnect with old friends, people with whom you have lost touch over the years. There may be scores among these ranks, or there may be just one or two special peeps whom you miss, but either way, it can be rather daunting to reach out and start the process of rekindling old friendships. What if they don't want to hear from you? What if they think it's awkward you tried to connect with them? And if things ended badly between the two of you, or fizzled out in a way that might have hurt their feelings, what do you do to make everything OK? Kissing and making up is usually a bad idea with old flames, but with old friends it can be a great plan, as long as your motives are honest and your intentions are good.
I asked a crew of relationship experts how they would suggest one reconnects with old friends, because who knows more about the ins and outs of personal communication than people who professionally counsel others about their day-to-day relations? Here's what they had to say about how best to extend an olive branch (or just wave hello) to a long-lost pal.
1. Send A Handwritten Letter
"Write a letter by hand," clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. Well, that'll get some attention, as the vast majority of mail these days consists of bills. And catalogs. And, if you're lucky, magazines. Oh, and more bills. "Mail it by the postal service," she advises. "In your letter, be real about your desire to reconnect. The more honest you are, the deeper the impact."
BetterHelp telehealth counselor and psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle that she agrees with this idea. "In the age of social media … it is so easy to message someone on Facebook, tweet them or hit them up with a quick message," she says. "However, the much more personal — and likely more effective — method would be to drop them a personal note." Try doing it on pretty stationery for bonus points. "They will appreciate the effort of actually writing your thoughts down and mailing it, and they have a nice memento if the reconnection goes well," Martinez says.
So don't hold back: If you miss your friend, let them know. "It delivers your true self, not just typing on a screen," Astarte says. Once you write it, see if you actually get off your butt and throw the communiqué in a mailbox. And then — let it go. If they answer, they answer. If they don't, they don't. And don't fret if the whole process takes some time. "Ideally, there is no need to rush; a friendship that's lasted this long shouldn't be affected by a few days' travel time for your heartfelt message," Astarte says. Be patient.
2. Wish Them A Happy Birthday
"Birthdays are a great time to connect with an old friend," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "People are usually in good moods on their birthdays, and they’re open to getting calls or emails from people from their past, both recent and distant." If you've been thinking of an old buddy and their b-day rolls around, say hi. "Your old friend’s birthday is a great excuse to drop a line," Masini says, and such an auspicious occasion eliminates the awkwardness of calling them out of the blue. There's a concrete reason to connect. The way you choose to do so is up to you — though she doesn't suggest social media. "Whether you send flowers, make a phone call or just send a text, your old friend’s birthday is a great time to reconnect," she says.
3. Reach Out Via Social
Not surprisingly, most experts referenced social media as the best place to start when you roll up your sleeves and decide to communicate with an old comrade. If you're not already friends on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter (you get the idea), take to Google and find them that way. As for what to say when you send the message, Google that too. "You can Google “old friends” and find a quote, or get the video of a song you enjoyed way back when," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle, "and post or send it with a note saying, 'This reminds me of the time we …'”
If you don't hear back immediately (and you know your former pal saw your message, thanks to Facebook, etc.), don't fret. "I find social networking works for most people, but be aware that your old friend might have very different memories or be in a different space; don't get offended if the reception is lukewarm," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. Give it time. It's best "to reach out, give it a few days, and go slow," she says. "Diving in like you are back at that space and time you were friends is not a good idea. People naturally evolve, grow, change; and life happens. Let it take its course. There is probably a reason you disconnected, so go easy and slow on the reconnection."
And it's not stalking to find your pal on Facebook or wherever, dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "Believe it or not, Facebook has probably done more to reconnect old friends than other method, including high school reunions," he says. "There is a very good chance that the person you would like to reconnect with is one of the billion-plus members of that site, and with a little perseverance, you can find them."
If you can't find them on any social media platforms, try finding a mutual friend, Van Hochman says. "Or just ask if they know the persons’ whereabouts." The only way things can get weird is if you actually try to track them down outside of the usual online methods. "What you don’t want to do is start using companies that do background checks and find people," he says. "This is great for business or legal issues, but feels a bit stalker-ish to the person you are looking for," especially in this case, Van Hochman says. When in doubt, if you can't find your old homie, give it a rest and try again in a year or two.
4. Find Their Website
"You could contact them via social media, but it's more fun to have someone contact you via your own website," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. "Before connecting with this person, do a total search engine query, see if you can find out if your friend has a website, and then contact this person and tell him or her how proud you are of all the latest accomplishments." Score! Talk about earning Brownie points. From there, ask your amigo to catch up, she says.
5. Know What's Up
"Do a little research on their life before reconnecting," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. She agrees with Sansone-Braff that people appreciate when you put a little extra effort in. "People like to know that they have impact and make a difference, so having a basic working knowledge on their accomplishments over the past few years goes a long way," Rogers says. "Validating their efforts with a compliment opens the doorway to dialogue and reconnection." And maybe then your crony will ask you to hang out without any additional prodding on your part.
6. Tweet @ Them
If you want to say hey but don't want to send a direct message, retweet one of their tweets, Sansone-Braff suggests. "Then watch this person start following you," she says; soon they'll be retweeting one of your tweets. Eventually, this can lead to some real life face time: "Before long you'll be private messaging each other to set up an in-person date to meet," she says.
7. Remember That It Might Not Work Out
"While it is fun to rehash old memories with an old friend, a relationship cannot be sustained on the past alone," Carlyle Jansen, author of Author, Sex Yourself: The Woman’s Guide to Mastering Masturbation and Achieving Powerful Orgasms , tells Bustle. If you dive into a second chapter with someone, "create some new memories together by going to the same places you once visited, or exploring new things as you once did," she says. "Find out who your old friend is now, and what excites them —family, hobbies, sports —and join them in those priorities."
Whatever those things were in the past have likely changed, especially if it has been many years. By doing things with them that you have never done before, "you will create new memories together and will be able to reflect back to yourself who they are today," she says. This way, you'll find out if you still want to be friends, she says. "Sometimes there are reasons why they are an 'old' friend from the past and not the present." Keep an open mind and see what happens.
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