Hi. It's been a while. How have you been?
June 18, 2017 8:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm recently retired and, for varying reasons, want to reestablish contact with some acquaintances and former colleagues I've fallen out of touch with. I want to reach out via email but keep getting stuck on the awkward first sentence. What do I say to explain or get past the lapse in our relationship? Something breezy and light seems appropriate, but I'm at a loss for a good first line. Mefites have always been so good at wordsmithing and clever turns of phrase, I'm hoping you can help me now.

To be clear, I'm not looking for anything from these people other than a renewed connection. In some cases, it's only been several months since last contact. In a few cases, it might be years but not more than a decade. These are all people who would definitely remember me. And I realize that we both let the contact lapse, but I'm interested in taking the first step to reestablish the relationship.

Oh, and I realize that Facebook would be a great way to do this but I'm not a FB user nor am I eager to become one although I suppose I could be convinced to do it if it's really the best option.
posted by DrGail to Human Relations (11 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
"I saw/heard/experienced/remembered X yesterday, and it made me think of you and that time we saw/heard/experienced X and/or Y."
posted by Etrigan at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

"Blast from the past! It's DrGail! I was thinkin'...remember when..."
posted by Rob Rockets at 9:09 AM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I realized the other day that it's been awhile since we've been in touch--I'd love to reconnect and find out what's going on with you! "
posted by bookmammal at 9:25 AM on June 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

I usually try to make it topical (to answer the unstated question "Why are you getting in touch with me now?") and friendly along the lines of what Etrigan said above. Examples....

"Hey Mark, what's going on? I found a bookmark in a book I was re-reading from your old lending library and I realized I haven't chatted at all with you since your second kid was born. How are things?"

"Aaron I heard that Ringling Brothers played their last show this month, I remember when I gave you a ride to clown college when we were in college. How are things?"

"Hi Marian -- I was digging through my bookshelves the other day and found a book that I thought you'd love to read..."
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on June 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think you can presume good will on the part of the recipient. Why would they be critical?

As shown in the examples, reference to an event works, but so does "Long time, no talk. How are you?"
posted by SemiSalt at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I generally use "I hope you are doing well" in the place of "How are you".

Generally an email should have only one question. In this case it's likely to include an invitation to coffee, yes? So make sure that you don't put too much other interrogatory if you're looking for yes/no on coffee.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:16 AM on June 18, 2017

"So, how the heck are you?"
Don't overthink it; just be your naturally friendly self, and jump right into something that made you think of them, or reminded you of your friendship with them.
And yes, always assume they would love to hear from you, and let your note reflect that assumption.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2017

You could always try something like, "I don't know if you've heard, but I recently retired, and as such all of my contact information has changed, since I no longer have access to my work e-mail address and phone number. I just wanted reach out and provide my current contact information. Additionally, I realized it has been a while since we've had a chance to chat. Feel like grabbing a coffee and catching up?"
posted by sardonyx at 10:48 AM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would with your retirement, since that is both big news and big part of the answer to why you are writing and the follow up with a specific connection that brought them to mind

"One of the joys of retirement is having enough time and energy to stay in touch with the [old friend] [people whose company I enjoy]." and then something personal like jessamine's examples.
posted by metahawk at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think all of these openings sound fine. The one thing I'd be careful of is not the opening but rather the rest of the email. In it, be careful to not communicate an implicit assumption that you're expecting a novel in response. So, don't write a lot about how you're doing, and don't ask lots of questions. I have occasionally been contacted this way by old friends / etc, and while I really loved hearing from them (always!) if I felt like it would take tons of effort or mental energy to write them back, it was easy to just keep procrastinating. And then before I knew it, months had passed. I felt awful, but I'm super busy, and it doesn't feel right to reply to a long newsy or question-filled email with a short three-liner.

So, long story short, make it short. If you want to reconnect better, close with a suggestion of how to ("want to get coffee sometime? want to skype sometime?") and if you just want to keep up a low-stress correspondence, include a question or two and leave it there. If they respond in kind it will create the seeds for doing that.
posted by forza at 4:29 PM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the trick is to have a very brief introductory word or phrase, then a less brief explanation or excuse for your absence. Then transition into a verbose reason for writing.

The reason why I think this works is because it sets the tone quickly: jovial, and not spam. And not a notification that someone has passed away. People get e-mail all the time, and if there's been a lapse in communication, the last think I'd imagine you want is for someone to mark it as junk or delay reading it thinking it might be bad news.

Offering a reason or reasons for the lapse in communication and apologizing for it shouldn't be delayed, but you shouldn't beat yourself up over it or run the risk of reverse guilt-tripping someone by expounding on the details of all the time that had passed. Move on, and get to the good stuff. Keep it light, and if they're interested in re-establishing contact, you can talk about any heavier or serious stuff then.

Finally, while I did mention to be a bit verbose, that's just in proportion to all your other words. Keep the whole message brief. Then give a one-line or even one-word summary of your absence/apology. Then send it off.

PS: It's not a bad idea to save something you'd like to say as a brief postscript. Because everyone love postscripts. I like "YOHA" because it's brief, and it's what Guybrush Threepwood says when he reads an upside-down "AHOY" doormat.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:25 PM on June 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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