This summer I was reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in seven years, and it was like being given an amazing present. Though we’ve always kept in touch, months sometimes passed between conversations, and I never totally knew what was going on in her life. But suddenly this summer we were in the same city, and slowly but surely we became those annoying BFF girls who constantly quote each other and say shit like, “Oh my god, I love you so much it’s CRAZY!” Maybe you don’t want to be quite that close with anyone this year, but you probably have someone you’d like to hang out with more, or someone who you always mean to have plans with, but never do. Here are some tips for restarting your stalled and/or jammed friendships in the new year.
Make Every Other Tuesday Cocktail and Cake Night You and your college roommate/high school bff/work friend from your last job have been e-mailing for months with the same subject line: “Let’s hang out soon.” Yet somehow it never happens. To put an end to the empty promises, try making a regular get-together. Use Time to Meet—a free online scheduling tool—to find times when you’re both free. Then set up a regular date: Watching Heroes together every Monday, or getting dollar margaritas at the dive bar around the corner every other Wednesday. Once you build it into your schedule you’re less likely to skip it, and even if you do have to beg off every once in a while, you won’t have to worry that you’ll end up going six months without seeing your Primetime Partner.
Use Up All Your Forever Stamps Want to reconnect with a friend who’s been out of touch for years? Buy a bunch of postcards, stamp them, and address them all to your friend. Keep one or two in your purse/laptop bag/briefcase to whip out the next time you get stuck in line at Starbucks or in gridlocked traffic. You don’t need a fancy message, just a “hey! What’s up? Thinking of you…” Drop the card in the mail the next time you pass a mailbox. After receiving a few cute cards, your friend is sure to respond with a sweet email at the very least. Find awesome sassy postcards here and here
Whip Cream. Whip It Good. Having some communication issues with your friend? Check out My Fresh Start, a website with a plan that’ll get things flowing more smoothly between the two of you, and will sharpen your cooking skills at the same time. Each friend receives a recipe with a different half covered. Using cell phones and IM in their kitchens, each friend talks the other through their half of the recipe. At the end of cooking, the friends remove the sticker to reveal the complete recipe. The service is really designed to teach you and your friends to cook healthier meals, but it can also be great at getting you to talk to each other in a helpful, fun way. And since you aren’t actually in the same kitchen, you won’t have to suffer through any backseat cooking—one of my major pet peeves. (Thrifty types, take note: You could really improvise the whole program without signing up or paying for anything.)
Sign off MySpace If your best friend acknowledged your birthday this year by posting something on your Facebook wall, the two of you are relying too much on technology. As Kathy Sierra points out on her metacognition blog Creating Passionate users, neuroscientists have found that the brain needs and expects body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice during communication. When they don't come, the brain suffers (and so does the communication). For a few weeks cut out IM, Gchat, Facebook, Skype, MySpace and text messaging—even phone calls if possible. It will force you to actually pay attention to each other in a non multi-tasking way, and that will help get things going again.
Get yourself a nemesis. If things are going sour with a friend, consider the possibility that he’s your nemesis. In one of my all-time favorite essays, Chuck Klosterman argues that the key to being great is having a nemesis and an archenemy. “We measure ourselves against our nemeses, and we long to destroy our archenemies. Nemeses and archenemies are the catalysts for everything.” Nemeses can only nudge you toward glory, albeit in an obnoxiously competitive way.