Relationships

9 Easy Steps To Get Back In Touch With Someone

Go beyond “Let’s get coffee!”

Two friends laughing while drinking coffee together after reconnecting. Experts explain how to recon...
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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 fall out of the loop. 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. In fact, a 2016 study published in Royal Society Open Science found that people start losing touch with friends starting after age 25 — and women lose touch faster than men. But even once you’ve gone radio silent, you don’t have to agonize over how to reconnect with an old friend, experts say.

"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?

But when is the right time to reach out to an old friend, especially if it’s been a minute since you last caught up? "If you find yourself thinking about an old friend and wanting to reconnect, then that's a sign to do it," Nicole Sbordone, LCSW, an Arizona-based therapist, tells Bustle. Working out how to reconnect with someone can be a multi-stage campaign or as easy as sliding into their DMs, but once you’re brave enough to take that first step, anything can happen.

Here are nine tips for how to reconnect with an old friend after you've lost touch, according to experts.

1

Send A Simple Text

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The first step towards reconnecting is just hitting send. However you reach out, you’ll want 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 that led to you losing touch. "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 to your old pal is done, you can get the ball rolling on making plans or doing a sentimental gesture.

2

Be Direct

Own the awkwardness, Wiercyski says. Address the situation for what it is, tell them that you were thinking about them, and ask how they’re doing. "Acknowledge that you haven’t connected in a while and simply ask if they’re interested in getting together.” Yes, you might not have heard from them in a while, but you didn't reach out to them either. Honor the fact that life got ahead of you when you reach out to your old friend, and it will be easier to move on together.

3

If You Want To See Them, 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, not following through can make your plans to reconnect backfire.

"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.

"Keep it casual," Wiercyski says, and keep it one-on-one. "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 nervous about it being awkward when it’s just the two of you, Wiercyski suggests choosing an organized activity, like painting, bowling, or going to a sports game. “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 seeing each other 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

Talk To Them About Their Passions

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One big worry about reconnecting with someone is that you won’t know what to say when you finally sit down for your coffee (or bowling, or pottery class together). There’s a strategy for that. “When you get together, if it’s a bit awkward, ask them open ended questions,” Wiercyski says. “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.” Humans absolutely love talking about their own lives; a 2012 study published in PNAS found that it lights up the brain with happiness. That flood of wellbeing will help you both find a spark of reconnection again.

6

Lean Into Your Shared Nostalgia

Those special experiences you shared — whether they were two years ago or 12 — really bonded you together, so bring back the moments that defined your friendship. Whether it’s a Facebook photo from eons ago, those roller skates you found at the bottom of your closet, or the concert tickets you still have stashed in your box of precious belongings, memories can really help you reconnect with an old friend. Nostalgia makes people feel more socially connected, according to a 2019 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, so even if the things you both loved are now deeply uncool — heck, especially if they’re uncool — fish them out of obscurity and marvel at them together. Did you really put fake streaks in your ponytails and sneak out to see Avril Lavigne at 14?

7

Laugh Together Like You Used To

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?" According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, laughing together socially really cements your bonds and floods your brain with mood-boosting chemicals.

"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 of that astrology meme, and actually make a conversation around whatever makes you laugh.

8

Address Your Friendship’s 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 that led to the falling out. "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.

9

Consider What’s Changed Since You Lost Touch

While they are still your friend, it’s worth reflecting on what’s changed since you last chatted. Thinking about what’s different 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, LMFT tells Bustle. She recommends approaching the renewed relationship with curiosity about the person your old friend may have become.

"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,” she says, adding that reconnecting can also bring up old wounds or a sense of regret. “Going into getting together without expectations allows you to honor the relationship you had without the pressure."

Experts:

Jenn DeWall

Heidi McBain LMFT

Nicole Sbordone LCSW

Desiree Wiercyski

Studies cited:

Bhattacharya K, Ghosh A, Monsivais D, Dunbar RI, Kaski K. Sex differences in social focus across the life cycle in humans. R Soc Open Sci. 2016;3(4):160097. Published 2016 Apr 6. doi:10.1098/rsos.160097

Caruana F. (2017). Laughter as a Neurochemical Mechanism Aimed at Reinforcing Social Bonds: Integrating Evidence from Opioidergic Activity and Brain Stimulation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 37(36), 8581–8582. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1589-17.2017

Tamir, D. I., & Mitchell, J. P. (2012). Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(21), 8038–8043. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1202129109

van Tilburg, W. A. P., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Vingerhoets, A. J. J. M. (2019). How nostalgia infuses life with meaning: From social connectedness to self‐continuity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49(3), 521–532. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2519