For some of us, it seems like there's nothing more awkward than receiving an email or a call from somebody who you haven't heard from in quite a long time, who acts as though you're still best friends, and who automatically assumes that you know all about their current life. Such an approach is both ineffective and disingenuous, and is akin to completely ignoring the elephant in the room.
A far more effective approach is to directly acknowledge the long-term lapse in communication, giving it a bit of context or rationale. Have you been traveling around the world? Did you change careers or form new relationships? Or, have you simply been entirely busy and self-absorbed? Whatever your reasons may be, it's important to be truthful and to acknowledge them.
Here are a few examples:
Alice, how are you? I'd imagine you're surprised to hear from me, since the last time we spoke I was on my way to law school. I ended up moving to California shortly afterwards, which is where I've been living for the past 8 years.
Alex, hello and I hope you're doing fine! I'm very sorry that I haven't been in touch sooner, I've just been completely overwhelmed by an insane work schedule, but rest assured that you've been on my mind for months.
Roger, I just want to reach out and say hi. I know that it's been an age since we've last spoken, but I've always wanted to reconnect and you've been in my thoughts over the years.
Explain Why You Chose to Get in Touch Now
There are a thousand and one reasons behind why you'd want or need to get back in touch with somebody after a long period of time. Presumably, you've got your own current or future agenda to pursue, or perhaps you owe them something that you never actually followed up on.
Whatever the case may be, it's essential to fully understand your motives for reaching out at this exact point in time, and to be completely transparent about it. Your answer to 'Why now?' should include both the event or transition that caused you to reach out to them, as well as what your agenda is, if of course you have one.
Some examples include:
I wanted to reach out to you because I'm moving to Europe in a couple of months to work for United Insurance Ltd. Last I heard, you were living in Paris, so I thought that you'd be a great person to talk to before making the trip.
I've just started going through the application process to get into medical school, and I've heard that you had an incredible experience at Harvard. I was wondering if you could find the time to share your experience with me.
After leaving the company following my son's birth, I'm thrilled to finally be returning to the marketing sector again. I was hoping that you might find the time for a quick coffee and a chat, I'd really like to hear your take on how our industry has changed.
Offer Something in Return
Finally, it'd be a great idea to include an offer of reciprocity or help for good measure. Be generous and gracious, emphasizing that you would like the opportunity to help them out as much as possible. This is because people are typically a lot more responsive when they feel that they can get something in return for their time and effort, as selfish as it may sound. You never know, when all's said and done, you may find yourself with a best friend who you'll never want to part with again!