https://www.smh.com.au/-By Evelyn Lewin
Cali and Sarah (not their real names) used to be thick as thieves. “We became best friends in year 9 and were inseparable during all of high school,” Cali says. But after school finished, Cali, who’s now 50, took a gap year. Over the ensuing years, as Cali went to university to study teaching and Sarah launched a small business, the pair drifted apart to the point of losing touch altogether.
Fifteen years passed before Cali decided to reach out to Sarah. During that time, she missed Sarah and would often think of her old best friend. “There were lots of times along the way where things would remind me of her, or I would think, ‘I wonder what Sarah is doing now?’”
While Cali contemplated reaching out, she was hesitant, unsure if Sarah would be receptive to reconnecting. She was also worried that the pair had such different interests and lifestyles, they’d have nothing in common any more.
Even so, Cali kept thinking about Sarah. One day, she bit the bullet and sent her a message on Facebook. Sarah was delighted to hear from Cali and, after some emails back and forth, the pair met up at a local cafe.
From the moment they sat down, their friendship was back on track. “It was like no time had passed; it was very easy,” Cali says. “There was no small talk chit-chat, it was sharing the big things straight away. We were both really happy to reconnect.”
During the time Cali and Sarah weren’t in contact, each suffered “connection regret” – that is, the regret of failing to nurture a valuable relationship. Connection regret is one of the four main types of regret detailed by Daniel Pink, an American author who has studied the subject for years. People often regret losing touch with a friend, but it’s common to hold back from re-initiating contact because of the fear of rejection by the other person.
People often regret losing touch with a friend, but it’s common to hold back from re-initiating contact because of the fear of rejection by the other person.
They might also be worried about how badly that contact will go, says clinical psychologist and Headspace app mental health expert Mary Spillane. “We often do this thing as humans called ‘effective forecasting’, where we have a tendency to overestimate how we’ll feel about a situation in the future,” Spillane says. That often leads us to assume that events or interactions will go worse than they really will.
So if we want to reconnect with an old friend, we might assume it will be “really awkward and unpleasant”, Spillane says. “Whereas in actual fact, it might not be that bad.”
If you’re considering reaching out to an old friend, Spillane recommends starting with a text message. Let the other person know you’re thinking about them and address the fact that you’ve drifted apart.
“Acknowledge the distance, or the awkwardness, or the time that’s passed, because that helps to deal with that ‘elephant in the room’ phenomenon,” Spillane says.
If the other person is receptive to your contact, inch towards meeting face to face. “It’ll be different for everyone, but … if there was a genuine connection at some point, then it’s really easy for us to get back into that space – even if there’s been a break.”
In fact, Spillane says, things might even turn out better than expected. And if both parties are willing to invest in their relationship, it can flourish once again.
That’s what Cali and Sarah have found. Since rekindling their friendship, they both value it more than ever and are dedicated to keeping it afloat. “We’re both just so happy we reconnected,” Cali says.