Throughout the month of December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.
19. Get in touch with someone you’ve lost contact with.
I’m willing to bet if you sat down for a few minutes, you could make a list of people who you were close to at some point in your life that have drifted away for whatever reason.
You went to high school together but moved to different parts of the country.
You went to college together but wound up on very different career paths.
You were in a civic organization or a club together for years, but one of you left for one reason or another.
There are countless reasons why social bonds slip away.
I’ll mention one of my own, because it relates to a woman I’ve attempted to locate several times since college with no success. Her name was Nicole and we became very, very close friends for a few years in college. After going through some personal trauma, she abruptly left the country on a missionary trip and, after that, I scarcely saw her again. We invited her to our wedding and, without an address, we used that of her parents. She sent back a polite note declining our invitation and, since then, I’ve been completely unable to reach her in any way.
I can think of several others as well.
Yet, at the same time, I can think of relationships I have re-established over the years. I’ve picked up the thread with several old friends and professional acquaintances over the years by doing nothing more than reaching out, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve done, both personally and professionally.
Here are some tips for doing it yourself.
Just “friending” someone on Facebook doesn’t cut the mustard. Facebook is useful for keeping tabs on existing friends, but you don’t “click” with someone just by clicking the “Add as friend” button. You can use Facebook to do it, but just friending and lurking isn’t really much of a connection at all.
The best way to go is to compose a twofold message. What do I mean by that? Simply put, you compose a message to them that contains both a brief update on what you’ve been doing along with specific questions about how they’re doing.
Put yourself in their shoes. Someone who hasn’t been a part of their life for a long while suddenly pops out of the blue with an email talking about themselves. How exactly do you follow up on that? I wouldn’t know how, that’s for sure.
Thus, you make it easy on the recipient. Ask them some questions that makes it easy to talk about what they’ve been up to. Put the ball in their court.
If you’re re-establishing contact just to tell someone off again, don’t bother. It doesn’t help anyone if you’re still grinding your axe over something that happened years ago and you’re just waiting to swing that axe and feel righteous about how you were mistreated a decade or so ago. Don’t waste your time.
Look for ways to help the person out if you’re reconnecting. There are lots of ways you can help people. If they’re looking for work and you know someone in their field, ask them for their resume and pass it on to the person you know.
Keep the communication going. Once you’ve found out what’s going on with them, touch base every month or so. Ask them what’s new and let them know what’s new with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for little things. One of the best ways to cement a connection is to create a give-and-take of small exchanges. For example, if you’re going to be traveling to an area they know well, ask the person for restaurant recommendations. Offer to meet them for lunch if you’re going to be in their area. Little steps like this take only a moment of your time, but help establish a bond that will be valuable for years to come.
Getting back in touch with old friends and coworkers is almost always something that I’m extremely glad I’ve done, and more than once, it’s paid incredible dividends in my life. It only takes a few minutes to open that door.