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Reunited and it feels so.... awkward...

It's happened to all of us... We run into someone we haven't seen in a long time and we have immediate, IMMENSE feelings.

Maybe we feel an instant pang of embarrassment for who we were when we knew them.

Maybe we feel sad and think "Nah, they won't remember me," or "we weren't really friends."

Maybe we feel mad or we put our walls up because they were mean to us.

Maybe we just don't know or remember anything meaningful to ask them about.

Maybe we feel sick to our stomachs because we fought and owe them an apology.

Maybe we are so surprised to see them that we just have a brain fart and don't know what to say.

Yet, I think it's safe to say that everyone strives to improve themselves year after year in some way, big or small. I'm not saying that everyone is out here reading 100 self-help books each year to discover our best selves. I'm saying I think we're all trying to improve some aspect of our lives: our parenting style, communication skills, our sense of fashion, our careers, our golf game....

It's one of my favorite things in the world to see people succeed, learn, grow, and improve themselves! I want to know all about it!

Then, why don't we take more opportunities to reintroduce ourselves to old friends? Why do we feel stuck in our prior judgement of a person? Why are we closed off to reconnecting, or connecting for the first time, with a former acquaintance?

I won't pretend like this is always going to be easy, sometimes it will take a whole lot of willpower. Most of the time it would be a whole lot easier to sing along with Gotye and believe they're just somebody that you used to know.

Let's talk about when it might be easy

  • You're invited to your cousin's bachelor/bachelorette party. You are several years younger than them you so you never had much in common.... until now? How fun might it be to finally find out?!

  • You run into someone at a local fundraiser and you recognize them, but you weren't really friends in high school, however they were always kind and friendly enough. Maybe you just never really got to know each other... and now's your chance!

Let's talk about when it might be hard

  • If you owe someone an apology, this is your chance... Take it! Chances are very high that they also remember that you owe them an apology. So, if you want any chance at reconnecting, that apology is going to create an opportunity for that to happen. And a late apology is always better than no apology. An apology demonstrates self-awareness, growth, and it can create an opportunity for the relationship to be repaired. A lack of apology can be interpreted in a number of ways, and none of them create an opportunity for repairing your relationship.

  • If your last memory/ies with them include being treated poorly, it might be extremely hard to give them a second, or 50th, chance to treat us differently this time. (Let me pause here to say there are many occasions that it makes sense to decide "OK. No more chances." Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to put those boundaries in place to protect ourselves, and that is 100% the right thing to do.) If you are safe to allow someone the opportunity to show up differently, I encourage you to extend that opportunity. It's possible they have been waiting for the opportunity to show you how much they've grown.

Invite others to reintroduce themselves

In order to allow someone to tell you about their newest version of themselves, there are a few simple tricks to keep in mind.

  1. Stick to the present or the future rather than rehashing the past.

  2. Ask about interests, hobbies, and goals rather than other people.

  3. Ask open ended questions rather than questions that will inevitably get a one word response like, "Fine." "Good." "Yes." or "No."

  4. Assume everything you know about that person is outdated and inaccurate information. Let them tell you who they are now.

Here are a few small ways you can invite someone to reintroduce themselves to you:

Instead of asking....

Try asking...

How have you been?

What are some of your hobbies these days?

What's new with you?

What's something you're looking forward to?

How's life been treating ya?

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Where do you work now?

What's the most rewarding part of your career?

How long has it been since we last talked?

How have your priorities changed in the last X years?

What have you been up to?

What have you been learning about recently?

How's the wife/kids/family?

What do you like about... being in a relationship, being married, living by yourself, living in this city...etc

Oh hey, I didn't even recognize you

Oh hey, it's great to see you again. I bet a lot has changed since we last saw each other. Let's start over, I'm....

We should catch up sometime

I wish we hard more time to chat. Can you just give me the 1-minute update of your life?

Remember when you.... (funny but embarrassing story)

Gosh, seeing you has just flooded me with memories. What's your favorite memory we have together?

Feel free to reintroduce yourself to me any time, I promise to be open to the new version of you.

Let's skip the small talk. I'd much rather hear about your passions, what brings you joy, what makes you laugh, and who you admire.

I hope you're open to the newest version of me as well.

How to reintroduce yourself

To be honest, not everyone is going to extend this opportunity to you. You might have to do this work all by yourself. (And yeah, I'm sorry if it feels like that's always the case... the sooner we learn to accept that the answers we seek are within us, the less we will feel let down and disappointed.)

Basically, you will want to translate their questions into the ones listed above. For example, when someone asks you, "Where do you work now?" you can take the opportunity to answer the question, "What's the most rewarding part of your career?"

Here are a few ways you can bridge your answers to reintroduce yourself:

When they ask...

Start your answer with...

How have you been?

I've been happy and healthy! Lately, I've really been enjoying... (list your hobbies)

What's new with you?

Oh gosh, so many things! I know right now I'm really looking forward to...

How's life been treating ya?

Really great! Last week the funniest thing happened, you are going to love this story....

Where do you work now?

I am a (insert job here) and I really love working at (company) because I get to...

How long has it been since we last saw each other?

Gosh, it has been awhile hasn't it? I don't remember how long it's been, but I know I only cared about where the next party was going to be... And now, my priorities have completely changed. I mean, now I spend my weekends (list what you like to do!) What about you? How have your priorities changed?

What have you been up to?

I've been reading a lot, recently I have been learning about...

How's the wife/husband/kids/family?

Oh, my spouse and I are very happily married. I love finding new adventures to explore together. Recently, we went...

Oh hey, I didn't even recognize you.

That's alright, I have changed a lot since we last saw each other. Let's start over, I'm....

We should catch up sometime.

That would be fun! But I'm sure we're both super busy, so how about we each share a one-minute update of our lives? I'll go first...

Remember when you.... (insert a funny but embarrassing story)

Yes, and I'm embarrassed about how I behaved that night. Thankfully, I learned a lot from that and I've never done that again. But, do you remember how much I loved (insert hobby) Well, now I...

I hope this helps you the next time you find yourself reunited with an old friend and you're not sure what to say.

Oh, and just one more thing...

When someone tells you who they are, believe them

This is a tidbit of advice I've heard and given many times over the years. While it may seem in opposition to what I've written so far... it does still have a place in this conversation.

I've heard this advice the most when I was giving someone too many chances to show up for me differently, to prove they've changed, and to treat me better. I needed to hear this advice because I needed to stop giving them chances!

We deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and compassion. We deserve honesty, gratitude, good vibes, and reciprocal relationships. Indeed, we must say, "ta-ta" to people who do not treat us the way we want or deserve to be treated. Maybe these people never, ever, get another chance. That's up to you.

I would just like to say that this advice is also helpful to have in mind when we are giving someone a chance to reintroduce themselves to us. Again, assume everything you know about them is outdated and inaccurate information. Let them tell you who they are now and believe them.

It feels good to forgive. It feels good to make new friends. And it feels good to be given a chance to show up differently when someone is truly ready to do so.

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