Rekindling old friendships as nerve-wracking ‘as speaking to strangers’

Old people hugging - Rekindling old friendships as nerve-wracking 'as speaking to strangers'
Old people hugging - Rekindling old friendships as nerve-wracking 'as speaking to strangers'

Rekindling old friendships is as nerve-wracking as speaking to strangers, a study has found.

Research on seven studies conducted by the University of Sussex found that nine in 10 people have lost touch with an old friend, but most people were hesitant to reconnect.

Two scientists, who were old friends who reconnected and now work at the University of Sussex and Simon Fraser University in Canada, analysed the hesitation people feel when it comes to reaching out to an old mate.

More than 2,500 people participated in the research which found that most people would welcome a message from a long-lost friend, but people felt nervous to make the first move.

People rated talking to an old friend as difficult as talking to strangers, with it being hard to overcome this trepidation.

“In our studies, it wasn’t that people didn’t want to connect – they just wanted others to initiate contact with them,” Dr Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist and Director of the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness, told The Telegraph.

“The people who did push past their hesitation and reached out to an old friend reported feeling happier. And past research suggests that old friends appreciate you reaching out, even more than you expect.

“We’d love it if learning about this research was the little nudge that people needed to reach out to someone they’ve lost touch with.”

‘Too awkward after all this time’

The study found that more than a third of people will not send a message to their former friend, even if they wanted to reconnect and had the time and resources.

The most common reasons for not doing so were that their old friend might not want to hear from them, that it would be ‘too awkward after all this time’, and feeling guilty.

Dr Sandstrom said: “We asked people how much they worried about various things: Did they worry that their old friend might not be interested in hearing from them? That it would be awkward? That they had nothing important to say?

“In general, people were moderately worried about all of these things, which is consistent with some mild social anxiety.”

The study is published in Nature Communications Psychology.