As a kid, it's fairly easy to maintain friendships; parents arrange play-dates, school enables daily mingling, and most of us stay in the same community for years. Inevitably, though, jobs, college, family commitments, and fall-outs eventually impact our circle of connections.If you're wondering how to revive a lapsed friendship after falling victim to the same unfortunate state of affairs that seem to characterize adulthood, here are a few pointers that might help you and your long-lost friends reconnect.
Friendships deplete in number for many reasons, but apparently we all reach peak friendship level at age 25. An analysis of telephone habits from Oxford and Aalto universities published in 2016 found that most people focus most of their phone interactions within a network of around 15 people, but that people age 25 speak more than other age groups. What's more, after this point, people make social connections more slowly.
Of course, personal circumstances and crises can impact each person's friendship group differently. Speaking from personal experience, I reached peak friendship level a little earlier; when my father passed away when I was 22, it forced me me to re-examine the role many people played in my life. Two or three friends who didn't reach out were culled. but I hold the ones still in my life now even dearer. Even still, if I wanted to pick up where I left off with the girls I stopped speaking to, experts wouldn't necessarily recommend it; reviving a friendship requires more than just hitting the "re-start" button. But if you're thinking of reaching out (and of course, with the health benefits of friendship in mind, it's often recommended), here's some expert opinion on how to facilitate a smooth re-entry into each other's lives.
Author, educator, and life coach Rachel Astarte previously recommended to Bustle that in the digital age, hand-written letters are he best way to command attention, mainly because they're so rare. Astarte also recommended keeping it direct and frank: "In your letter, be real about your desire to reconnect. The more honest you are, the deeper the impact," she said. Kelsie Fannon writing in Lifehacker agrees that receiving a letter is so much nicer than opening an email, stating, "A note is one of the nicest things to receive. It doesn’t have to be complicated — just telling your friend you are thinking about them will go a long way."
Don't Rush And Don't Expect
It's all well and good having the intention to repair a friendship that's fallen by the wayside, but be prepared for a knock back — even if you're the one doing the apologizing. Your old friend may have developed a different perspective on why you stopped talking; they may have moved on completely or, have developed a lifestyle which means they won't be willing or able to respond to you right away. As Irene Levine, a psychiatry professor at NYU and the author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend, told Science Of Us recently, "Just because you’re ready to rekindle a friendship doesn’t mean the other person’s ready — you’ve given it a lot of thought, but the other person could be caught off guard.” If they turn you down, be respectful of their desires and let it go.
Levine also noted that when reigniting an old connection, taking it slow and pretending that you're getting to know them for the first time may be beneficial. Not only is this a way of avoiding going back over painful ground, but it also gives you both a chance to forgive each other. Levine adds, "You really need experience and time to build trust with another person, whether it’s an old friend or a new friend. ... You might want to try to become acquaintances first, rather than friends." Try coffee before dinner, or a text before a meet-up.
Re-assess Your Other Friendships, Too
In trying to revive one friendship which you regret losing, you may find yourself analyzing other relationships in your life. Life coach Michael Heppell, author of How To Have A Brilliant Life, recommends prioritizing the friends you really value and reducing time spent with the ones who are a drain on your life. Said Heppell to Psychologies in 2014, " Identify the 'sappers'; they're the friends who take more than they give, and leave you feeling worse, not better, about yourself." He recommended spending "50 percent less time" with these "sappers," as well as encouraging "[upgrading] the 'growers'" — that is, engaging more with the friends who make you feel great. Not only will this add value to your life in emotional terms and allow you to view all your connections more clearly, but it will also leave you more time to mend the rift with the people who really matter.
Of course, if you've fallen out with a friend, sometimes there's more benefit to staying away than repairing a relationship that was toxic or hazardous to your mental health. And that's totally OK, too. We're naturally social creatures, but no matter how despondent you might feel at losing a once-valued connection, there's plenty more fish in the sea.