7 Ways To Reconnect With A Friend You Lost Touch With
Even though, in the age of social media, it feels like it's easy to know where your friends are and what they're up to, your 20s are still a prime time to lose touch. With all the milestones and career changes and moving to different cities, it can creep up on you that someone who was once there every day hasn't texted you in over a year. Navigating how to reconnect with an old friend can be tricky, but it's incredibly rewarding when you're able to bring someone you love back into your life.
"There’s nothing inherently wrong with losing touch, even though we often feel guilty about it and place judgments on ourselves about how we’re 'bad friends' or something like that," life coach Desiree Wiercyski tells Bustle. "Because of this, it’s hard for someone to reach out, so if they do, and if you have time and are willing to, then grab that cup of coffee. The only way you’ll really know if you’re really reconnecting in friendship is by getting together." Plus, who else will be able to gossip about that one time on the class trip with you, or embarrass you with things they remember about your Sophomore year?
"[So], if you find yourself thinking about an old friend and wanting to reconnect, then that's a sign to do it," Nicole Sbordone, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), tells Bustle. Just make sure you do it right.
Here are seven tips for reconnecting with a friend after you've lost touch, according to experts.
1. Keep It Simple
The goal is to make your old friend feel comfortable, and a big part of this will involve trying not to exaggerate what happened between the two of you. "Be simple, especially if you’re strapped for time and haven’t spoken in a while," Jenn DeWall, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. "Text or email a simple 'hi' or 'thinking of you note.' Remember it doesn’t have to be long and detailed, people are just happy you have reached out!" Once the simple act of reaching out is done, you can get the ball rolling on making plans or doing a sentimental gesture.
2. Be Direct
Most importantly, you have to be up-front. If it's been a while, there's going to be some awkwardness, but your friend deserves your openness and honesty. "If you and your friend had a strong relationship, then be direct," health and wellness coach Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "Don’t be afraid to cut the crap and address the situation for exactly what it is. Try to communicate that you were thinking about them and want to see how they’re holding up. This can convey true care and let them know that you want to reconnect as friends and not start fresh as strangers." In most cases, losing touch was a two-way street. Yes, you might not have heard from them in a while, but you didn't reach out to them either.
"Own it," Wiercyski says. "Acknowledge that you haven’t connected in a while and simply ask if they’re interested in getting together ... Then, when you get together, if it’s a bit awkward, ask them open ended questions. It’ll keep the pressure off of you and make them feel good because they get to talk about themselves and the awesome stuff they’ve been doing." No one needs to be blamed for losing touch, but you shouldn't avoid the situation either. Honor the fact that life got ahead of you, and it will be easier to move on together.
3. Actually Set Plans
No one likes to hear the words "let's grab coffee!" when they know it means, "let's not talk again for a year!" While it seems like the polite thing to say, it can be hurtful. But what do you do if you actually mean it?
"A genuine 'let’s grab coffee!' is immediately followed up by arranging the date, time and place," DeWall says. "If you’re not setting a date you’re not likely getting coffee together." These plans are the foundation for the next step of your friendship.
Once the plans are in place, make sure you're keeping your friend comfortable as well. "Keep it casual," Wiercyski says. "This may mean simply grabbing coffee or going to happy hour. And definitely try to keep it at a 1:1 level. It’s so easy for someone to feel intimated if you haven’t connected for a while then you invite them to hang out with all your new friends ... If you’re reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in years, then it may be best to invite them to a defined activity (i.e. the painting classes that are popular, bowling, or even a sporting event) because if things are a bit awkward, there’s something else to focus on and possibly create a new bond over." And if you both have a good time hanging out again, make plans for your next hangout, too. Making brunch reservations a few weeks in advance is necessary these days, anyways.
4. Try Snail Mail
Once you've gotten the initial reconnection over with, you can show your friend how much you care by putting time and effort in, in unexpected ways. "Send a card. Mail implies thoughtfulness. Handwritten notes are more meaningful than texts," DeWall says.
In a card, you can write down any cheesy thoughts or memories in a way that feels real and genuine. Plus, it's way cheaper than getting a gift.
5. Make Them Laugh
One of the best things about long-term friends is their unparalleled ability to make you laugh. So, if it's been a while, do them the favor right back. "Send them a light-hearted or funny text or meme," DeWall says. "Make them laugh! Who doesn’t want to connect with the people that make us happy." If you've simply lost touch and there's no resentment, it will be good feelings all around.
"The biggest difference [between losing touch and losing a friend] is how easy it is to pick up where you left off," DeWall says. "If you’re still friends the conversation will flow easy and each of you will leave feeling happier after the exchange." So go a step beyond tagging them in the comments section, and actually make a conversation around whatever makes you laugh. It's a lot more personal, and it increases the chances of them sending you something back!
6. Address Any Serious Issues
Another part of being being a good friend to someone you've lost touch with is being unafraid to have difficult conversations. As much as you two can share drinks and laugh, the friendship won't really get back to where it began unless you can discuss any serious issues the two of you may have. "It can go wrong if you’ve fell out of touch because of a fight or misunderstanding and the issue is still unresolved and one of you (or both) are still harboring resentment," DeWall says. "To avoid this, make sure that you address the issues and not sweep them under the rug." The conversation can be kind and loving, of course, but it should be direct.
"Take away all judgments about what caused the lapse in contact. Life happens," Wiercyski says. You and your friend both deserve this.
7. Consider What Has Changed
While they are still your friend, pretending that no time has passed would be unhealthy and unwise. It's OK to consider what is different, and it will help the two of you decide whether your friendship is strong enough for a second shot. "Depending on how much time has passed, you both may have changed," licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. Honor that, and go into it with curiosity about the person your old friend may have become.
Really, a whole host of emotions and reactions are possible. "[Reconnecting] may bring up old wounds or a sense of regret," Wiercyski says. "If you’ve gone through a large life change like moving, and that prompted losing the friendship, then getting together may make you question your decision or make you miss the life you once had. You may end up comparing yourself and ... feeling less than. If your friend has had amazing success or is at a point in life where it looks like [they have] everything together, it can definitely shake your view of where you are in life — no matter how successful you really are!" You don't need to try to avoid any of these feelings — just know that they're valid and have a plan for how to deal with them.
To feel best when reconnecting with an old friend, take some of the pressure off of the moment and simply try to find joy. "Remove your expectations for what getting together will be like and don’t try to force the friendship to be what it once was," Wiercyski says. "You may get together and it may be just like old times, it may be better, or it may be awkward. Going into getting together without expectations allows you to honor the relationship you had without the pressure." But going through life with the "what-ifs" of losing touch with a friend you loved is in no way a better option than reaching out and risking an awkward catch-up over coffee. You, and your friend, deserve to see how your relationship can evolve. It just might take a little bit of work.