10 Ways to Rekindle a Friendship After Not Being Able to See Them
No awkward hugs or moments of silence, please.
Whether you have a long-distance friendship or haven’t seen your bestie in a long time because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, reconnecting with a friend after a long absence can be awkward. Don’t get us wrong—sometimes, it’s a seamless reunion that feels like no time has passed. But other times, especially after a year in quarantine, many of us have experienced some sort of falling out with our friends—either physically or emotionally.
And with the world reopening and social gatherings happening again come new social anxieties. To help make things go a bit smoother, we spoke with several therapists to learn some helpful tips on reconnecting with your BFF without any awkward hugs or moments of silence.
How to reconnect with a friend:
1. Prepare yourself.
We don’t mean this in a “brace yourself” kind of way, but it is important to think about everything that’s happened in your life since you last saw your friend, says clinical psychologist and advisor at MINDCURE Dr. Sherry Walling. “Think about the highs and lows that have happened in your life, which will be the things you want to share with them,” she says. Also, take some time to think through the questions you’d like to ask them that go beyond “how are you?”
2. Be intentional about making plans.
We’ve all experienced times when we say we’re going to hang out with friends, and they never happen. Avoid this by being intentional about making plans. Don’t fall into the vagueness of “Let’s grab coffee sometime!” but rather send a text that offers a definite plan, California-based psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly tells HelloGiggles. Examples include, “Hey, I’d love to meet you for a hike this weekend” or “Would you like to meet for lunch next Saturday?” “The more intentional and specific your message is, the more likely you’ll reconnect sooner rather than later,” says Dr. Manly.
Life coach Andrew Horn also recommends planning a one-on-one hangout. “Instead of inviting someone to go to a party or group hang, ask if they’d be up for a one-on-one hang, which shows that you care enough about them to spend dedicated time,” he says. Fewer people usually equals more depth in the conversation, which brings us to our next point.
3. When it comes to conversations, it’s all about quality over quantity.
“In general, it’s the depth of the interactions rather than the number of interactions that makes a friendship truly meaningful,” says Dr. Manly. “Monthly soul-baring calls with a trusted friend once a month (or even less) can create a far deeper bond than a ‘let’s grab coffee twice a month’ friendship,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to go deep, adds Horn. “Ask them questions that show you care about seeing the real them,” he says.
4. Don’t dwell on the past.
You might feel uncomfortable if your relationship doesn’t feel exactly how it did when you last saw each other, but that’s okay. Instead of trying to go back to how things were, which can cause additional strain and pressure to your friendship, embrace the changes. “Notice the similarities and celebrate the growth and changes,” says Dr. Walling. “Don’t assume that the relationship will go back to its original state, instead let it be something new.”
5. Be upfront about any awkwardness.
The best way to deal with any anxiety or awkwardness is to be transparent about it, says Dr. Manly. “As we come out of quarantine, many people feel personally anxious, which is compounded by worry about others’ anxiety,” she says. “I recommend that people take a straightforward approach to this nearly universal concern by saying, ‘I’m feeling a little anxious about going out and facing post-pandemic society! What about you?’ This honest tactic normalizes re-entry anxiety and gives others a chance to tell us how they are feeling.”
6. Practice social flow.
Horn coaches others on social flow, which is all about tapping into a natural “flow” and presence with people. “Social flow is that feeling where you are present to the conversation, self-consciousness evaporates, and you’re focused on connecting,” he says.
You can practice creating social flow by trusting your intentionality, curiosity, and authenticity, he says. Before your next social gathering, he recommends asking yourself, how do I want to feel/be? What do I want to know? What do I want to talk about or share? These questions help to shift your focus from seeking external validation and can guide you to have meaningful and confident conversations.
“The more you practice this, the more you’ll realize how infinitely fun, energizing, and expansive every conversation can be no matter who you’re with or where you are,” says Horn. To keep it top of mind, remember the acronym (I CAN), which stands for intentionality, curiosity, authenticity, now.
7. Be honest.
A fundamental aspect of all relationships is honesty. “Be honest and tell them that you miss them or want to build a deeper friendship,” says Horn. Once you’re honest about how you feel, it’ll help you both decide the best way to move forward with your friendship.
8. Stay in the present.
Dr. Manly says the most important part about reconnecting with your friend is being present and being yourself. “If spells of anxiety or worry surface, train your mind to focus on a great experience shared with the friend, common bonds, or something you love about that friend,” she says. “There’s nothing like focusing on the positive to create the healthy energy that will help you re-bond with your friend instantly.”
9. Be patient.
If you want to re-establish a connection, you might have to work at it for a bit. “Our social patterns are rhythms that we practice,” says Dr. Walling. “Integrating an old friend back into your life means that both of you will have to disrupt your current patterns and make space for each other, which takes some patience.”
10. Don’t force it.
Dr. Walling says it’s best to ease into your relationships and pace your social interactions after being away from them this past year. “Relationships and in-person engagements take a lot of energy,” she says. “Don’t feel like you have to go full speed all at once.”
So, make sure to listen to yourself and your body. “There’s no requirement to go back to the way things were before,” says Dr. Walling. Take your time, don’t force anything, and reflect on what you’d like to add back into your life and what you’d like to release. “Your social and emotional energy is precious, so it’s important to use it in the ways that best serve you,” says Dr. Walling.