How to Reconnect with an Old Friend When It’s Awkwardly Been Too Long

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

Back in your college days, you texted her every single move you made. Whether that was “stealing your oatmeal ” or “declaring pre-med,” she knew exactly what you were up to and vice versa. But then you blinked, the years flew by, and now when you think about it, you haven’t spoken to her in—what?—six months? A year? Two years? You’ve lost count. Did you have a fight? A miscommunication blown out of proportion? Or maybe just a new cell phone plan that made long-distance calls too expensive?

Either way, so much has happened—pets, jobs, breakups, proposals—that you’re not even sure where to begin. For one, does she even want to reconnect with you? Before you fall down that well of insecurity, know this to be true: Chances are that your friend misses you, too, and would be more than happy to hear from you. So put on your butterfly costume: It’s time to get social—here’s how revive your relationship again.

1. Pick Up the Phone and Actually Call

While your instinct may be to text, this situation calls for an honest-to-goodness voice connection. Why? It’s more personal and can deliver much more emotional impact. If you have anxiety about having a conversation, call at a time when you know you won’t be able to chat forever (e.g., you’re heading into the office, have an appointment, etc.). Here’s a script you might find helpful.

Friend: Hello?

You: Hi! It’s [YOUR NAME]. How you doing? 

Friend: Good, you? What’s up?

You: Well, I know we haven’t talked in a while and this seems out of the blue, but I wanted to tell you how much I miss you.

Friend: I miss you, too!

You: I actually have to run in a second, but let’s please make some actual plans and catch up?

Friend: Yes, I’d love that.

You: Great, I’ll text you some dates. 

The voicemail contingency script:

You: Hi, [FRIEND]! It’s [YOUR NAME]. I’m calling because I was just thinking about you and how we haven’t seen each other in way too long. I would love to catch up if you’re around for a coffee—maybe next Tuesday after work? I’ll text you some times and we can work it out. Talk soon!

2. Text Your Friend Some Dates with a Game Plan

Something you want to avoid during this reconnection phase is the F-word—flakiness. At such a vulnerable phase in your friendship, if you’re all talk and no action, your friend might not take your efforts seriously. So, if you initiate the reconnection, provide the actionable plans. Here’s an example:

Hi! You around Tues/Thurs for a midday coffee break? The Owl Farm Bakery is a great spot.  

Worried you’re being pushy? You’re not. If you leave plans wide open, they will never happen. When you can take care of the logistics with one fell swoop (or a couple broad strokes), you make getting together easier, and ultimately you guys can focus on being together, rather than sorting out minutia.

3. Stick to the Plans and Show Up

Do not reschedule. Do not reschedule. Do not reschedule. Did we mention do not reschedule? Changing the plans or putting your pal on hold sends out a frequency that you don’t really care or that you think you’re more important. (This is why we avoid the F-word at all costs.) You might be feeling anxious about seeing her after so long, but you’ll have to rip off the Band-Aid at some point if you want to reconnect. Do it over cappuccinos at your favorite coffee spot and not unexpectedly when you run into her on a stressful, no makeup grocery run with your kids and wife waiting in the car.

4. Forgive Them If They Cancel

Double standard? Sure. But, since you’re the one who initiated, give your friend a little more leeway. Try to reschedule on her terms and see what plays out. If she cancels repeatedly, maybe this isn’t the best time for meeting up. Remember: You might not know exactly what your friend is going through, and as much as she misses you, she could be juggling her own problems without a second to spare. Whatever you do, don’t hold a grudge. It’s not worth it. If anything, try to plan a date in another couple months. 

5. Listen

When you do finally meet up, it will be tempting to tell your friend everything she’s missed in your life (“…and so now I’m actually using a bamboo toothbrush instead of electric!”). But reconnecting is a long-term goal, so don’t overload the conversation with your life story. Be present, ask questions and let the conversation flow organically. Again, if you have anxiety about filling up the time without being awkward, give yourself a time limit or an out, whether that’s going back to work or picking up your kids.

6. Acknowledge, Apologize and Move On

Maybe you had a big misunderstanding or maybe you both are just bad at keeping up relationships from afar. Either way, if you’re reconnecting because you miss your friend and not because you want to air your long list of grievances (fingers crossed it’s the former), then address any lingering elephants in the room, say you’re sorry and move forward. Here’s a script if you need one.

You: It’s so nice to see you.

Friend: I know. Things got weird between us. 

You: I know. I’m sorry we couldn’t see eye-to-eye back then. I feel like I’ve moved on, and I would love for our relationship to move on, too, if you’re open to it. 

7. Follow Up If You Feel a Connection

Things go swimmingly? Did all those great memories from freshman year of college flood back into your consciousness? That’s great! In this choose-your-own adventure (friendship edition), you can keep  things moving along by inviting your rekindled friend to a book club, dinner party, movie or another coffee date. If the meetup felt strained or weird, it’s OK to let things rest—the ball is in your friend’s court now, courtesy of you. Don’t feel obligated to forge a friendship if those parts aren’t fitting together.

8. Put in the Time

Blink and it will be another ten years. If you continue to put in the effort to be a friend, then this time is less likely to slip away. Text, call, email—whatever route you take, keep the communication going. That’s what friends are for, right?

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