Nervous about reconnecting with people you haven’t seen since before lockdown? It’s time to give your friendships some TLC…
When the nation went into lockdown 18 months ago, most of us quickly realised how much we rely upon our social network.
From close confidants to more tangential connections – the gym buddy you grabbed post-workout coffees with, the colleague who made you laugh in the loos on a sleepy Monday morning – all our friendships were whisked away in the blink of an eye as socialising was almost completely outlawed.
Now, as we emerge blinking back into our social lives, it’s time to remember exactly how great it felt to connect with people - even people we weren’t that close to before the world was turned on its head.
Remember what it felt like to catch up on all the office gossip at Friday team drinks? Or how you could sink hours into a brunch meet-up with your best mate, the waiters giving you the side-eye as you made a tepid cappuccino last for anecdote after anecdote?
If the answer is no, you might not be alone. After so many months of isolation, many of us have forgotten just how much value there is in keeping a busy social calendar. And even those who’ve not forgotten might be feeling a bit rusty.
However, that’s no reason to keep yourself locked away. It may have been a while, but the friendship date is your route back into normality.
The first step, of course, is reaching out. Weirdly, something that once felt like second nature can now seem a bit daunting, particularly if you’ve drifted from some of your social groups.
However, Dr Becky Spelman says it’s never too late to rekindle a friendship – no matter who the other person is.
“People have taken a step back and realised that they’ve lost contact with individuals they really value, particularly those with good energy,” Dr Spelman says.
“Friendships can sometimes be hard to sustain, especially in a pandemic, so don’t beat yourself up too much.”
Basically, your friends are probably feeling as discombobulated as you are, so stop over-thinking it and pick up the phone.
“Leave a voice note,” suggests Francesca Gamble, life coach and co-host of the Becoming More Human podcast. “Hearing someone’s voice you haven’t heard for a while will instantly make you feel better and help you to strike more of a chit-chat-style conversation.”
They want to hear from you, you want to hear from them - it’s time to swallow your awkwardness and just make it happen.
If reviving your more fringe friendships seems particularly nerve-wracking, an activity-led date is a good way to break the ice.
“If you’ve not got years of friendship to fall back on, tapping into shared interests is a great way to reconnect,” says Tina Wilson, relationship expert and founder of the Wingman dating app.
“A yoga class, a boxing session, a trip to the theatre… you’ve got loads of options again, so why not use them?
Jess and Zoe – two colleagues who kept in touch via Slack and WhatsApp while working from home – made plans to finally meet again and feed their mutual Disney obsession.
“Zoe was my closest pal in the office,” explains Jess, “but without seeing each other every day, we kind of let things slide a bit, so we made plans to do something about it.
“We went to see Disney’s Frozen after work on the first day we returned back to the office.
“We got dressed up and headed to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, which is so glam and lovely, it immediately put us in a good mood.
“There was lots of singing and the whole thing was just so upbeat and joyous.
“We’re definitely friends first and colleagues second now – we’ve even talked about going to see it again…”
Of course, our oldest and deepest friendships are the ones that we’ve missed the most.
Even if you threw yourself headfirst into the endless rounds of Zoom quizzes, there’s no substitute for proper IRL time with your closest pals, so when it comes to setting up your next meet, it’s worth leaning in to exactly what you were missing - uninterrupted conversation.
Keep it simple - dinner or drinks would be a good call - and have a proper think about the location – we’re all craving a bit of nostalgia after so many months of isolation, so make sure to choose a destination that means something to the pair of you.
Having spent the pandemic at home in Yorkshire with her parents, Esther was desperate to reconnect with her closest uni friends after so much time apart.
“We planned a picnic in Victoria Park in Hackney, where we all used to live together in a shared house,” she explains. “It did feel a bit weird at first because I’d been away for quite a while, but we were soon laughing our heads off together again, even though it started chucking it down.
“It turned out I’d been worried about nothing – we soon clicked back into a familiar groove.”
The pandemic has also caused a lot of women to make the decision they want to welcome new friendships into their lives.
Relationship therapist Andrea Balboni says that having shared experiences of difficult times means we can bond more deeply with new people right now.
“This is also an excellent time to explore new passions and to consciously create space in your life to cultivate new skills,” she continues.
“Not only can you broaden your interests, but you’ll also meet likeminded new people while you do so.”
Summer might have come to a close, but the doorways to friendships old and new, big and small, have reopened.
So whether it’s heading to Disney’s Frozen, or just meeting for a drink, it’s time to start booking in some dates…
Ready to get back out there with your nearest and dearest? Disney’s Frozen is playing now at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and is the perfect night out to reconnect with friends. Featuring all your favourite hits from the original film alongside a host of new songs penned by Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the new musical promises to bring Elsa and Anna’s relationship to life in a whole new way. Get your tickets here.