The Power of Checking In On People: How to Preserve Your Social Connections

checking in

Who is someone you haven’t connected with in awhile? Reaching out and checking in on them likely means a lot more to them than you realize.

Over the course of a lifetime, many people come in and out of our lives.

I know I’ve been a part of many different social circles over the years: childhood friends, people from my hometown, high school, college, different jobs, and different places I’ve lived.

As we get older, we may look back on some of these past relationships and past connections and feel nostalgic. A random person from our past pops up in our minds and we think, “Hm, I wonder how John is doing these days? I miss him.”

For many, these are fleeting thoughts – but they are also thoughts we can potentially act on.

In today’s world it’s easier to stay connected with people through phone, text, and social media but we rarely take the time to reconnect and preserve these social connections.

The more time that passes, the more we may feel it’s “awkward” or “weird” to reach out to people and check in on them. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

We may find ourselves thinking, “It’s been years since I’ve spoken to John. He is busy with a family and kids now. He lives halfway around the world. What’s the point of reconnecting with him at this point? It’s not like we’ll ever be as good of friends as we used to be!”

And while it’s true that people grow apart and they may never be as close as they once were, that doesn’t mean that we have to forget about these relationships entirely.

Most people appreciate it when you reach out to reconnect. It shows them, “Hey Steven still thinks about me and cares about me – that’s nice of him!” It’s a tiny thing, but it matters; don’t underestimate the power of good intentions even among the smallest of acts.

Simply knowing that someone still thinks about you and considers you a friend or important person in their lives feels good. It reminds you that you still have a lot of people who care about you in this world even if you haven’t seen them in years.

Often when we reconnect with a good friend, we are surprised by how much the connection is still alive. How often do you see someone you haven’t seen in years and it feels like things picked up exactly where they left off?

When you have a rich history with someone and lots of good memories with them, that doesn’t just all go away or mean nothing. They likely appreciate those memories just as much as you do – and it’s easy to get right back into that old friendship mentality.

There are many different reasons (or “excuses”) to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in awhile:

  • Birthdays – A simple post on their social media wishing them a happy birthday and hoping everything is going well in their lives.
  • Holidays – Wishing someone a quick “Happy New Year!” is one common way to reconnect. Holiday cards and Christmas cards are a big thing among a lot of old friends, family, and relatives.

  • Big Life Events – When you find out someone just got married, or had a kid, or moved somewhere new, or landed a big job, that’s a great reason to reach out and catch up on their lives.
  • “It’s Been Awhile!” – There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to people out of the blue and just saying, “Hey, it’s been a long time since we’ve last seen spoke to each other, I’m just wondering how everything is going with you?”
  • “Remember When…” – Sometimes a positive memory comes to mind that reminds you of someone. You can use that as a springboard to reconnect with people and start reminiscing about the “good old days in college,” or “that one time we went on that adventurous road trip.”
  • “I’ll Be In Town!” – If you happen to be revisiting your hometown or traveling somewhere you know an old friend lives, that could be the perfect time to reconnect. Simply saying, “Hey, I’m going to be back in town for a couple days, we should catch up and get something to eat” is a great opportunity to rekindle an old relationship.

How you reconnect isn’t as important as making the effort to reconnect. Don’t over-think it with, “Should I text? Email? Message on social media?” just reach out and wait for them to get back to you.

Usually I start off with a text message, then once we exchange a couple messages I say, “Hey we should catch up on the phone or video chat sometime.” Moving the discussion to voice chat or video chat has been shown to create a stronger bond than just using text-based communication. Those non-verbal signals often play a big role in connecting with people at a deeper level – even just hearing the sound of someone’s voice you haven’t heard in awhile can instantly remind you of how much you’ve missed them.

Over the past year I’ve had the chance to catch up with a few old friends from my distant past. It’s amazing how once we are on the phone chatting, things go back to the way they were between us. Before I know it, a full hour has passed with us just talking, reminiscing, and catching up on where our lives are at.

Another interesting thing I’ve done is have “watch parties” with old friends who live far away. Someone will live stream a movie or TV show, and we all get to watch it together, banter, and chat about it. Just like the good old days sitting in our living rooms watching TV together!

In general, talking to friends boosts our “tend and befriend” response (the opposite of the “fight or flight” response) – it has been shown to reduce stress and cortisol levels – and it’s an easy way to instantly boost some of your happiness chemicals.

Who is someone you haven’t talked to in awhile that you could reach out to today? It may mean a lot more to them than you realize.

Staying connected with others and checking in on them periodically is a great way to preserve your social connections and remind yourself that you still have a healthy social circle that cares about you. It also keeps the door open to continuing building on these relationships in the future.

It’s often better to maintain your social bridges than to burn them or neglect them.

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