There’s a great quote that’s wrongfully attributed to Shakespeare that goes, “New friends may be poems, but old friends are alphabets. Do not forget alphabets, because you will need them to read the poems.” Regardless of who said it, it’s a wonderful reason to consider reconnecting with old friends, don’t you think?
Reconnecting with old friends helps us understand the poetry of friendship
Since we’re talking about the poetry of friendships, let me kick things off with a quote from one of my favorite poems about lost friends, by Patricia Fleming.
Every single one of our friends taught us different letters of the alphabet. From our solid emotionally supportive friend from college to our zany “let the good times roll” high-school pal, we learned something from each one of them that allows us to read the full poem of friendship.
So, reaching out to old friends is a bit like getting a refresher course in that alphabet. Thankfully, it’s definitely a lot easier than relearning how to conjugate a verb or solve for X in an algebra equation! In fact, in the age of social media, reconnecting with old classmates has never been easier. Plus, with all of us spending more time at home, there’s never been a better time!
With a few clicks on your keyboard and a quick tap on “add friend,” we can almost instantly find friends from our childhood, high school years, and beyond. Once you click that button, though, you have an important choice to make. Do you reach out and genuinely rekindle the friendship, or just leave them as “laugh at their memes and not much else” Facebook friends?
Just friending your 5th-grade bestie on Facebook isn’t the same as actually reconnecting with them. In fact, just leaving them in the background can be toxic to your health. It’s all too easy to play the “look at how much better off than me they are now” game. Remember, most people only share the best parts of their life on social media, so these “passive friendships” never give us the whole picture. If you want to really relearn that friendship alphabet, you need to put in the effort to literally connect. Let’s talk about how to make that easier on both of you.
How to really reconnect with old friends
Whether you want to reconnect with old classmates that you haven’t seen since high school graduation or you’re trying to rekindle a friendship with someone that you’ve lost touch with more recently, the “steps” are the same.
#1 Keep your initial “reach out” simple
Once you hit that “add friend” button (or find their number, if you’re planning to text instead), Eva Taylor Grant of Bustle recommends reaching out with a quick note. I personally say something along the lines of, “Hey, stranger! How have you been?”
That said, sometimes “simple” can backfire. Lately, it seems like people I haven’t talked to in years are reaching out with what seems like an effort to reconnect but turns into a sales pitch the moment I respond.
So, to make it a bit more personal and show that you’re actually thinking of them (and not just thinking of selling them something), you can also add a little something about what prompted you to reach out. For example, “I was just thinking about that time we got a flat tire on the way to prom. Wow, that was so long ago, wasn’t it? It made me wonder how you’re doing today.”
#2 Be patient and don’t force a reconnection
Once you hit the “send” button, wait to see if they respond. Don’t pester them or follow up with a barrage of “I haven’t heard from you, just checking to see if you got my message” notes. And please, for the love of all things breathing, don’t say something like, “According to Facebook Messenger, you saw my message three days ago. Are you ignoring me?”
Side note- I can’t stand the fact that Facebook Messenger doesn’t allow you to turn off that feature for this very reason. Read receipts are such an invasion of privacy when you don’t voluntarily turn them on. To me, it’s like having a snail-mail sender peeping in your window to see when you open their letter.
Long rant short, don’t be “that person” who stalks read receipts. It’s creepy. If they don’t reply, let it go. Not everyone wants to reconnect with old friends. If they do reply, spend a little time getting to know each other again in the low-pressure private message context before making in-person meetup plans.
#3 Make real plans to get together
When you’re both sure you really want to reconnect, then set a date to get together. As Grant explains, make sure you actually set plans, and not just toss out the dreaded “let’s get together sometime” kiss of friendship death. We all know that “let’s get together sometime” really means “I don’t want to see you, let’s not make this awkward.”
Solid plans, like, “Hey, are you available for coffee on Tuesday at 2 PM?” lets your old friend know that you genuinely want to see her…and find out if she truly wants to see you, too. If she replies with something like, “Sorry, I’m really busy Tuesday. Let’s try to get together some other time,” but doesn’t offer up an actual alternate time, don’t push it. She may be trying to gently let you know that she prefers to keep your reunion strictly to social media and casual text conversations.
#4 Manage your expectations
Once you do make those plans, follow licensed therapist Katie Krimer’s advice and manage your expectations. Don’t go to lunch with the intention of becoming besties again. Sometimes, we reconnect and instantly rekindle those “best friends for life” feelings.
Other times, though, we discover that we really don’t have much in common anymore, or just don’t feel that “click” that we used to. In other words, we learn that our old besties work better as new acquaintances. That’s okay, though! Be open to all possibilities and you won’t feel rejected if your old pal just doesn’t feel the same “reunion vibes” as you do.
#5 Reminisce but don’t act as if no time has passed
When I sat down to write this, I wanted to say something about how getting together with old friends is like traveling back in time to revisit your favorite memories. How it often feels like no time has passed! While that can be true with some friends, therapists actually warn against pretending that time stood still since your last hurrah together.
Heidi McBain, a licensed therapist and marriage counselor, explained to Bustle that acting like no time has passed is unhealthy. “Depending on how much time has passed, you both may have changed,” she said. It’s important to honor that, to recognize that you’re both different people today and may not want to revisit the people you were 5, 10, or 20 years ago. So, definitely share fond memories and revisit the best parts of the past but do it in an “expectation-free” way. In other words, reminisce about the past with respect for the present.
Some old friends are better left in the past
Reconnecting with old friends is a great way to visit the past, but what if that past is best left behind? Let’s be honest, some of our friendships weren’t exactly healthy. Before you hit the “add friend” button on your 1st grade BFF’s Facebook page, ask yourself if this person made you feel good or bad about yourself in the past. If they were a toxic friend then, it’s not worth the effort to find out if they’re less toxic now.
Yes, people can change, and very few of us today are who we were at age 6 (at least I hope we’re not!). Still, if someone was cruel to you as a child, getting together with them again isn’t exactly going to bring up those fond memories you’re looking for. Sometimes, it really is just like no time has passed and you can step right back into that easy flow. Even if you can’t, though, you’ll still come away with a better understanding of the alphabet of friendship.
For the most part, though, reconnecting with old friends is a fabulous way to travel back in time to the best moments of your life without worrying about pesky things like upsetting the time/space continuum. Just go into it with an open mind.
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