7 Hacks for Rebooting a Friendship After a Major Falling Out
Step 1. Take a leap of faith
We all know that making new friends as an adult isn’t easy. But trying to reconnect with a friend can be even more challenging, especially if you haven’t spoken in years due to a major falling out.
I’m speaking from experience. A couple months back, my sister received a message from a former best friend of mine who happened to see my sister and me out together. She wanted to confirm it was me, while I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. Long story short, about five years earlier, I was going through one of the worst times of my life and my then-friend made a really poor excuse for not being there for me. Things were said and that was that. It’s been a while, but when she sent my sister that message, I realized I still wasn’t over it.
Not that it mattered, of course. A couple weeks later, I ended up running into her in person. It was definitely awkward, but I managed to be pleasant enough. I knew she got the sense that I wasn’t in the mood to talk, and we ended up parting ways. Since then, I’ve seen her around a couple more times, and I’ve continued to avoid her.
Around my birthday, I started to think about my life (as many of us tend to do) and decided I wanted to bring more positivity into it over the next year. I was thinking about the relationships I had, and this particular one seemed to stand out the most. What happened a few years back was extremely hurtful, especially since we had known each other since we were 12, so cutting off the friendship was pretty difficult.
But I didn’t want to have this lingering negativity about her and the situation stuck in my head. So lately, I’ve been thinking about whether reaching out to talk and clear the air would be a good idea or not. Although I’m not completely sure if “reconnecting” is what I want out of it, holding a grudge forever isn’t going to make my life any better.
If you’re thinking of reconnecting with a friend after a major falling out, you may not know where to start or even how to go about it. So here are some simple and helpful tips from experts that you can try (I’m planning to try them, too).
1. Take a leap of faith and make that first move to reconnect.
Just reach out. Send that first text or even DM them if you think calling is too much pressure. As licensed professional counselor Kailee Place tells HelloGiggles, it’s important to take that first step no matter how scary it may be.
“I cannot count how many times clients have talked about struggling to reach out to old friends despite badly wanting to,” Place says. “Chances are, this friend will have thought of you throughout the years as well and will be really glad to hear from you.”
If fear is holding you back, think of it another way. How would you feel if they reached out to you? If it’s been a long while since you talked and you are ready to see them again, you might welcome it.
“It’s like receiving a hand-written letter,” Place explains. “It’s something special and will not only brighten someone’s day but may also rekindle something that was once very impactful.”
If you do reach out and they don’t respond, that’s okay, too. You’ve done your part and put yourself out there. “It’s okay to be disappointed by that, but eventually, think about how you took action and made a choice to respond to a nagging voice in your head,” she says. “And that’s pretty amazing in itself.”
2. Ask to meet up in person.
If you’re serious about hashing things out and reconnecting, do it in person. “Texts, emails, messages, and even calls can leave some things to be misinterpreted or taken out of context,” licensed marriage and family therapist Kati Morton tells HelloGiggles. “Being in person allows you each to speak your mind, and apologize where necessary.”
As tempting as it is to say you’re sorry over text, hold off until you can do it in person.
3. Address the issue early on in the conversation.
When you do finally agree to meet up, Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, says that it’s important to lay it all out on the table right away.
“Don’t beat around the bush,” Backe says. “You’re better off addressing the situation from the get-go. Since you have so much history together, there’s no point in being awkward or vain because they’ll see right through it.”
You know you’re going to talk about it, so might as well get it all out as soon as possible.
4. Own up to your faults.
When you have a major falling out, it’s easy to place all the blame on the other person. But the truth is, no one is ever completely faultless. If you really want to reconnect and repair your friendship, it’s important to acknowledge your mistakes. Being defensive and making excuses is only going to make things worse. Beyond that, it can possibly lead to an even bigger fight.
5. Find new commonalities.
Certified counselor Jonathan Bennett says that finding a way to forge a new bond with your old BFF can make reconnecting a whole lot easier.
For example, you can go back to a coffee place that you always used to go to together. You can talk about how you both have great careers now or how you’re interested in maybe starting families. By finding commonalities you share, he said, you increase the odds of having your friend accept your offer to reconnect.
6. Decide what you both want moving forward.
Do you want to stay in touch and work on rebuilding what you once had? Or was this meeting meant to be closure?
“A friendship will only be worth saving if both parties recognize their part in the problem, and want to work on healing from it,” Morton says. “It can’t work with only one person apologizing or trying harder; relationships of any kind require both people be devoted to it.”
At the end of that first meeting, you should decide if forming a new friendship will be worth it or not. It will only cause more hurt if one person is willing to give the friendship another try while the other isn’t completely on board.
7. Be patient and keep your expectations in check.
If you decide to give your friendship another go, be patient. You can’t expect to be BFFs again right away. As Nicole Zangara, author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, explains. “It will take time. Take it slow and let the friendship naturally deepen without any expectations or pressure.”
Good friendships are pretty hard to find. People do change, so some friendships may not be salvageable. That’s okay. Maybe that person really wasn’t meant to be in your life long-term. But if you’re able to work out your differences and leave the past behind, you may be on your way to being best friends again.