How do I restart a friendship?

Here at Musubi we love to hear about the rekindling of relationships - it’s one of the major reasons we started in the first place! We hear reports every day of our customers reconnecting with long-lost contacts, picking up their friendship like nothing ever happened.

But it’s not always that easy - if it’s been a while, it can feel awkward or uncomfortable to get back in touch. Who knows if they even remember you?

Relax. We’re here to help. We’re going to share our 3 favorite tips for rekindling that relationship with an old friend.

1. Do it now: No excuses

The most common problem we have when reconnecting is giving ourselves excuses or rationalizing why we won’t reconnect right now: “Oh I’ll do it tomorrow” or “Maybe when I have something interesting to say”.

Stop. These are excuses, and they are toxic.

First off, don’t be scared about it being awkward; reconnecting with someone is flattering for them. You’ve thought enough of them to reach out again! I don’t care who you are, that’s an ego boost in itself. You don’t have to say anything more than “Hey we haven’t talked in a while; do you have some time to grab coffee or drinks?”. If you really were friends, it shouldn’t be hard to get to see them again.

Furthermore, reconnecting brings a big sigh of relief, as it takes away that nagging guilt everyone has for not reaching out to their friends enough.

Follow up likelihood drops steeply if you don't act immediatelyFollow up likelihood drops steeply if you don’t act immediately

But finally, excuses make it much less likely that you actually go ahead and reconnect. If you delay 1 day, what’s 1 week? Soon enough it’s been 5 years and you don’t even know their relationship status, let alone their email address.

No excuses.

2. Friendship is an investment; treat it like one

Heard of Dunbar’s number? Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, studied the brains of apes to figure out why social animals are, well, social. Just what is a social bond, and how do we form them?

Dunbar’s research led him to conclude that there is a specific, physical part of your brain that manages relationships, located in the neocortex. The amazing thing is that the number of social bonds we can maintain is directly related to how big this part of the brain is. For most people, this ‘social brain’ can only remember around 150 ‘real’ friendships.

Getting a friend back in this “active friendship” group requires that you invest time in your relationship. If it’s been a while since you’ve last connected, you should plan on setting aside time for 2-3 get-togethers in the near future to get your friendship on sure footing again. A tool like Musubi can help you ensure that you reconnect consistently instead of becoming a flash in the pan.

Repeated interactions are required to reboot a friendship successfullyRepeated interactions are required to reboot a friendship successfully

3. Meet in person

In addition to studying our capacity for relationships, Dunbar also studied the impact of different kinds of interaction on relationship strength (You might remember hearing about that research from when we wrote about the science behind successful networking).

Here’s the quick recap: Relationships need face to face interaction. In face, the average friendship only lasts around a year without an in person meeting! There’s something about being able to see your friend’s smile, their body language, and their touch which our social brain craves, and you can’t get it any other way.

The reasons for friendship are often very different from what we'd expect rationally The reasons for friendship are often very different from what we’d expect rationally

This is doubly as important when reconnecting: all those little cues help our brains dig up, rediscover, and reinforce the dormant friendship we once had.

That’s how you get those long-lost friendships which seem to never have stopped; our brains still remember those friendships, but they’re out of our active memory. It just takes a little push to bring it back.

Bonus: Revertigo, or why reconnecting is a behavioral time machine

When reconnecting with an old friend, it’s not uncommon to experience behavioral regression, or, as a recent sitcom deemed it, “Revertigo”.

Believe it or not, revertigo is a real phenomena. It’s a side product of the rediscovery phase mentioned in Tip #3: when your brain digs up the details of your dormant friendships, it also recovers many of the actions and habits associated with that friendship.

These associations are a key part of how we connect with friends. Social bonds establish a ‘shared history’ of inside jokes, behavioral quirks, and other cues which give us a sense of connectedness; the more shared history we have, the more we identify with a person.

Without any recent shared history to go on, our brain falls back to our old shared history for connectedness; like a time machine, it takes us back to the latest point we have together, even if that’s many years in the past.

In this post we covered our three favorite tips for reconnecting and explored the roots of Revertigo. Now for you. How are you reconnecting with your friends? What went well? What went wrong? Eager to hear your stories.