Throughout life, you meet people. Some of them become your friends, some of them you reached out to in order to survive. In fact, each person was put in this world to serve a purpose, so it’s not all too embarrassing to admit that we are all connected in some way – and that we need each other in more ways than we realise.
However, due to the number of people and contacts who come and go, it becomes a hard truth that you lose touch with most of them, even if they once played major roles in your past. This is applicable with friendships, fleeting acquaintances, or even business relationships.
But what do you do when you and your old contacts lose touch? How do you reconnect without you sounding and appearing pathetic and desperate (even if you sometimes are)? Let’s all admit, sometimes it is easier to make new friends and contacts than it is to try and find those you have (almost) forgotten and try to rekindle ties?
Here are some suggestions.
Make the first contact.
One of the easiest ways to reconnect is via email. Put the contact at ease by acknowledging up front that it’s been a while since you connected. If you’re embarrassed, say so. This approach is applicable not only to friends and co-workers but also to people you met at networking functions but never followed up with. Be gracious and take ownership of the lapse in communication. This removes the anxiety the other person may have for not keeping in contact with you. If you’re feeling brave, your first contact can be a phone call. Don’t assume that the person will recognise your voice after a long period of time. Whether in an email or phone call, re-introduce yourself and refresh their memory about the last time you spoke to them. If you reach out via one of the social networking sites don’t just send a connect request, always attach a personal message as you would in an email.
Remind people how you know each other.
On social media, don’t use template connection invites and letters. On Facebook, LinkedIn or even through email, make it a personal message about where you met, when you last spoke, or something else that shows genuine interest. Put an updated and professional-looking picture of yourself so that old connections who may have forgotten your name can recognise you visually.
Be sincerely interested in the other party – not because you need to be, but because you really are. Show a genuine interest in what they’ve been doing since you last connected. Ask questions about their work projects or family or interests that you may have in common. Your goal is to get back the rapport that you once had. And remember, if you’re merely pretending just because you need the other party back, then it will eventually show.
Don’t be a friend only when you need them.
Maintaining your network is so critical when you don’t need anything. It takes the time pressure off of you to accomplish anything. But if you’ve waited till you’re in need to work on your network, then you have to self-discipline yourself to still make those early contacts about your network and not about yourself. One good exercise: take 3-5 contacts per day and just say hello. This gets you in the habit of regularly reaching out to your network, so that when you actually have a question to ask or even a favour, the request isn’t the only time you have reached out.
Be candid and specific about what you want from them.
If you need a recommendation or would like an introduction, say so. Chances are your contact knows that there is some reason that you’ve reached out to them. They are waiting to hear it and are probably willing to help. If they’re not, it may because they are no longer a good fit for your network and that’s good to know as well.