Keep in Touch
Relationships change, but you can keep them strong.
When you graduate or move on from a job, you always tell your friends to keep in touch. They’ve been there day in and day out, they’ve had your back. They know you. But inevitably when you move on to the next phase of life, those relationships start to fade.
As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that it’s easier to lose touch with friends and colleagues than it is to stay in touch. It’s human nature to be close with people who are…well, close by. Proximity and shared day-to-day experiences can create really powerful bonds, but they can easily evaporate once you’re not seeing each other regularly.
Though I’ve seen it happen, I also know it doesn’t have to be that way because I’ve had friends who are great at keeping up relationships.
My friend Jared is awesome at this. I can always count on a quick text or call from him if we haven’t been in touch for a few weeks. Because of this (and because he’s a great guy) I consider him one of my closest friends. But I know I’m not the only one who feel this way about him. I hear from many other friends who connect with him regularly—he’s just really mindful about reaching out.
But we can’t all be Jared, with an encyclopedic social brain. People who work in sales or recruiting have software in place to help them follow up, since their livelihoods depend on it. Luckily, you don’t need to go all-in on a Salesforce subscription or be a natural networker to keep your connections strong.
All you need is a process so you can be both a better networker and a better friend.
My approach: The list of people I’d want to have coffee with.
My process is pretty simple. I keep a list of the people I want to stay in touch with. When I think about names to add to my list, I ask myself this question:
If I knew this person was only going to be in town for a day, would I want to get coffee with them?
It’s usually a pretty easy answer. This keeps my list manageable, and full of amazing people. After all, it’s silly to keep checking in with somebody you’d never want to have a deeper conversation with. It’s only worth the time (and the effort) if you’re ready to sustain a real relationship with the other person.
Every month or so I go down my list. If I haven’t emailed, texted, or called that person in a couple of months, I make a point to reach out that week. Here are a couple of ways I do it:
- Make a quick phone call between meetings — a 5 minute catch up is great!
- Send them an article they might like to read.
- Connect them with someone else interesting who they should meet.
- Send a quick “I’m thinking about your project/interview/other life goal!” text.
This takes just a little bit of time every month, but it’s time well spent. If you care about somebody, show them. It’s a little like working out — at first it’s hard, you don’t want to do it. There’s too much inertia holding you back. But as you keep exercising, you get stronger. And in this metaphor, so does your network.
And a side note: remember that “liking” someone’s picture on Instagram or wishing someone a happy birthday on Facebook doesn’t count. Aim for a somewhat meaningful, personalized interaction.
If you’re consistent with your communications, you may be able to keep many wonderful relationships your whole life long.