A buddy in need: How to improve friendships with old pals

May 30, 2012, 8:39 a.m.

Let's be honest. We could probably all use a few pointers on how to increase social skills and reconnect with old pals. Life can be long, and during its long and winding course, we sometimes allow other concerns to come between us and the people we once cherished among all else: Our friends. The great news is, it's never too late to pick up where you left off, and mending a friendship that might have been left to wither on the vine is possible -- if you know what to do. Here are a few suggestions to help bring back a little love in your life for those dearly neglected old friends.

Find your friends

Today, it's easier to find people than it was just 10 or 15 years ago. Not only do we have the Internet, we've also got social media platforms like Facebook that have become so ubiquitous, people all across the globe are reconnecting with old friends and distant relatives without even having to think about hiring a private detective. This is a good thing, because it basically means that if you've got access to a computer and just enough technical know-how to type an old friend's name onto your computer screen and click "Search," you could very well be only a few steps from finding a long lost friend.

Accept the change

Once you've made that reconnection, your next step should be a bit of mental preparation. Understand that time changes everything, even our relationships with our dearest, oldest friends. If you haven't talked to an old pal in ages, don't expect to pick up the phone and hear the same voice you knew so many years ago, and don't allow yourself to be disappointed if you're not able to simply resume the friendship as if no time had passed. Friendships are based on trust, and trust is built on routine and habit. If it's been decades, or even a few years or months, you may have to work a bit to earn your old

friend's trust again. Accepting this ahead of time will better prepare you against disappointment, or against feelings of rejection if you're not welcomed with wide open arms.

Plan activities

Whether you're interested in re-experiencing old times or mending a friendship, it's important that your first steps involve some sort of activity. This isn't intended as a distraction. The fact is, human beings bond over activities and it can make reconnecting with an old pal a fun and effective, rather than an awkward and boring, experience. We're not suggesting that you go white water rafting -- nothing that extreme! But as you begin to take those first tentative steps forward in your rekindled friendship, you may want to consider doing something that you both love equally, whether that's playing golf or taking the dogs for a walk together.

Work out differences and make apologies

Our friendships are more valuable to us than our pride. Pride can't keep you company when you're lonely and it certainly can't say something to make you laugh. Many people fail to realize this, and wind up shooting themselves in the foot by letting their pride keep them from making long overdue apologies or going to the trouble to work out differences. But often it's necessary to take these steps so that we can have the people we love in our lives again.

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