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January 15, 2013 11:44 AM   Subscribe

How to catch up with old friends?

Hey guys,

One of my new years resolutions is to catch up with an 'old friend' every week (which means someone I was friends but not necessarily super close with from my past). However I can be *really* awkward, so how can I do this and have a somewhat meaningful conversation without it being weird? If you got back in touch with an old friend, how exactly did it go down?

Thanks so much!!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (9 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Don't expect a meaningful conversation from someone you have not spoken with for a while, unless that is the nature of your relationship with them. There are people to whom you can pound out eight paragraphs on the meaning of reality, and get eight in return, and never say two words about how you haven't spoken in six months. Most people aren't like that though, and a "meaningful conversation" is an investment in time, and few have more of that than they did before you lost touch.

From a practical standpoint, "Hey! I know we've been out of touch, but how you been?" email is the best way to do this generally. And, I mean, that should basically be the entire content of said email. Not " you been?" and then two paragraphs of your life. Let the other person decide if they want to hear about your life by either replying or not. Setting up a conversation in advance (unless it's like "did you see [RECENT EVENT APPLICABLE TO MUTUAL INTEREST]? Wasn't that awesome?") is an imposition and even if someone wants to get back in touch, they may just find it too much effort to reply, or put it on the back-burner, genuinely meaning to reply, and never getting around to it just because you presented them with a scenario where it would be rude (or whatever) to not cover all the bases you established.

TL;DR: "Hey! I know we've been out of touch, but how you been?"
posted by griphus at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

Looking at your tags... Email or Facebook or the like is probably a better tack then phone or text, as it does not require an immediate response on their part. On preview, a quick "Been awhile, How's life?" message like griphus suggests is the way to go!
posted by yellowbinder at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think in some cases no matter what you do it will be awkward or weird. Half of a conversation is the other person's end.

Most of the time I have contacted friends with whom I had lost touch, I had news to tell them. "Hey, Joey, it's me Johnny. I thought I would call and let you know the great news. I am a father now." Conversation usually flows from there.

I would start with a reason you are calling although using a New Year's resolution seems awkward. "I was watching TV yesterday when a rerun of Friends came on. It reminded me of how we used to sit and watch every week eating ice cream."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm doing the same thing, but without tying it too much to the new year.

I've been sending "Ooof, finally came up for air after a crazybusy stretch of work hassles and would love to get together. You around this week/next? Let's get drinks/pizza/see a movie." No pressure, no over-explanation. It seems to be working pretty well so far.
posted by vickyverky at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2013

Yes, email and say, "Haven't talked to you in a while, what have you been up to?" I'll disagree with Griphus on one thing -- I think a paragraph about your life is a good way to start a conversation. Also, if you want something from them, like an in-person meeting or phone call, end with that -- "I'd love to catch up on the phone sometime," or "Are you free for lunch any time in the next few weeks?"
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Good for you!

How are you planning to contact these old friends? And what do you mean by "somewhat meaningful?"

I've had some luck reconnecting via email/facebook and occasionally snail mail. Things that seemed to help:
1. Keeping the entire message short.
2. Saying hello and why I'm contacting them, often a memory of something we both shared. I wouldn't mention your resolution.
3. A short update of what I've been doing since we talked. I try to mention a mix of good and bad news, but not extremes either way.
4. Asking some genuine questions about how my friend is. These can be tricky, but I try to be relatively specific and ask open-ended questions as opposed to yes or no questions.

If the friend is local (or one of you will be in town), you might want to suggest meeting up for coffee or something. I get the impression such meetups are more common among women, but I don't know for sure.

Good luck!
posted by wiskunde at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2013

I get the impression such meetups are more common among women, but I don't know for sure.

Speaking from personal experience, I've received and sent messages like these on Facebook and via email, and never via text. As a man, I've never met anyone for coffee (or had my offer taken up) unless it was an older person (i.e., a potential mentor) or a date. I've had a couple occasions where it wasn't a date, but the other person thought it must have been, which led to much awkwardness.

To hew closer to the point, I have a pretty bad record of "reconnecting" by sending casual messages. Mostly, it leads to a short email conversation until either you or your acquaintance start losing interest. The two of you lost touch for a reason: you live far apart now, you no longer attend the same activities, you don't work at the same company, you're no longer active on the same forums, whatever. Most people have trouble maintaining a meaningful relationship in a vacuum by sheer force of will.
posted by Nomyte at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2013

I absolutely LOVE when someone gets in touch with me out of the blue and says "Hey, I haven't heard from you in forever and was wondering how you were doing. Do you want to get coffee/lunch/a beer sometime?" and then if you hear back from the person that they are also interested, set a date *ahem* so they don't forget you were talking like I might have done a few more times than I'd prefer.

Truth is, I disagree with Nomyte, as someone who is fairly introverted and has a lot of introverted friends: sometimes people just fall out of touch by complete accident, and it turns out when you get together it's just like it always was. Sometimes people just never find 'the right time' to try to get back in touch, but it turns out now is as good as ever.

It sometimes helps to reassure the person that you aren't going to talk to them about the great cult or multi-level marketing scheme you just joined if you note that you just saw their update on Facebook, or that something reminded you of them earlier that day, etc.
posted by capricorn at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I do this a lot. And it depends of what I want to do is just say "I am still alive but I wanted you to know I was thinking of you" or something more like "I'd like to spend more time communicating with you" So whether it's "Just saying hello, talk again in five years" or "Hi, let's keep in better touch."

If the idea is an ongoing connection, think about a way you can make that happen. If the idea is just to ping someone and get a ping back, you can be looser. I have a friend who sends me a letter once or twice a year and I love this. I like hearing how she is doing and that she took the time to write. I write back similarly erratically but it seems to work for us. However when she calls and is just like "So what's up?" my response is usually "I am at work is what is up. What do you want?" so maybe be mindful of people's preferred communication styles. On the opposite end of this spectrum are the mass-emailed "Hey I saw you at $CONFERENCE, let's stay in touch" which is like friendspam.

I think having a contact point that tells a little bit about what you've been up to, without being too braggy or too mopey, is a good way to open the door. People who just email me "How have you been?" without telling me how they are and it feels like a book report assignment (especially because I have a lot of social media that could answer this question if all they wanted was a status update, I assume they are looking for more than just that). So I'd suggest being

1. brief - keep it short but not "How are you, from me" short
2. familiar - this is not work so make it something chatty or interesting and not like therapy
3. open-ended unless there is a goal you have, just try to connect but don't get to mercenary about it

And then things happen how they happen.
posted by jessamyn at 2:37 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

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