Our challenge this week was to reach out to three friends we’ve lost touch with over the last year. We both thought it would be kinda easy and fun, but it was tougher than we thought. As this article from The Atlantic talks about, we’re missing not just friend-friends, but also all those acquaintances and friendly strangers we used to see just because we shared a train or gym time or coffee shop habit. We do miss those people, but we also miss our actual friends from:
- Book club
- Knitting group
Along with the pandemic, we have both had major lifestyle changes that exacerbated our drifting friendships. We moved from the suburbs to the city, Marjie added a second home in Florida and we were both laid off from our jobs as Editors-in-Chief at Modern Luxury. That’s a lot of change, and Instagram, FaceBook and holiday cards are no substitute for actual contact.
But here’s the rub: We are staying in touch with some friends, so why have others drifted? And is it worth the effort to reconnect?
I worked this challenge up into something way more difficult than it needed to be. Who do I miss? Does she miss me or am I out of sight, out of mind? I talked myself out of calling multiple people—so awkward—but finally managed to text and then talk to a distant friend, wrote one handwritten letter, sent one long and chatty email, and scheduled a walk. Life won’t be normal for a long time, so if we want to have friends and be a friend, we need to work with what we’ve got. And the biggest thing to remember is to get over yourself! Yes, you might feel a little awkward reaching out, but so many people are struggling right now and a friendly message or chat with a friend might really make someone’s day.
I miss so many people! But with a limited pandemic pod, my social skills have taken a hit. Picking up the phone to call a friend I haven’t talked to in a long time made me feel awkwardly shy and overly aggressive at the same time—even though I was confident they’d be glad to hear from me. In the end I was thoughtful about the way I approached to each of my three girlfriends, one of whom I haven’t seen in ten years. I’m so glad I made the effort, though, because it was wonderful to reconnect.
Make it Less Challenging
Here are our tips if you have someone you legit miss and want to make sure she doesn’t drift out of your life for good:
- Text first, then call. An out-of-the-blue phone call with someone you don’t regularly chat with signals that something is seriously wrong (death, divorce, depression). If you haven’t spoken in the last year, start slow.
- Send a note. My elderly aunt responded to my holiday card with a lovely handwritten letter. She doesn’t text (at least not with me), so I wrote back a nice note with more updates than we had in our holiday card and hope that made her day.
- Send a nice DM. Admittedly social media is unsatisfying when you just “like” posts, but I have one friend from my old neighborhood who sends chatty (and complimentary) DMs that I’m eager to respond to. It’s not an in-person coffee, but it keeps our connection going.
- Write an email. Texts are quick info bites, but if you want to reach out with a little more depth, send a chatty email.
- Keep it in context. If you only chatted with your co-worker about the weather when you saw each other at the copy machine, now is not the time to reach out and bare your soul. Send her a funny gif about digging out from the latest blizzard.
- Reminisce. Good friendships exist in the past and present so spend part of your conversation reliving some of your shared experiences. It’s fun to remember that Spring Break trip in college or the fundraising event you chaired together and it makes those old good feelings feel very fresh.
- Be respectful of time. A lot of our friends are absolutely overwhelmed so don’t be greedy with their time.
- Everything changes. Give space for a different level of intimacy. Your friend might need a little space or might be going through more than you think and just wants to keep it light.
- See something, say something. If you notice something in a social media post, respond with a specific compliment. So instead of just thinking that you admire your friend’s dedication to her training regimen, text her and let her know.
- It’s not about you. If you sense a friend is struggling (as so many are), then reach out and ask if you can do anything to help. Many people need our support right now.