Three Communication Tips For Contacting An Old Flame

Portrait With Computer
My friend “Brian” received an email from “Maggie” out of the blue, someone whom he had dated in high school and has not seen in decades. Maggie hinted she often made it into the city where Brian lived—prompting Brian’s wife to ask, “WTF?”

Have you ever thought about messaging an old flame—perhaps someone you haven’t seen since you were dancing under a disco ball and typing your school essays on a manual typewriter?

If so, in the spirit of community service, I am going to offer you three tips on how to do this well.

Be honest about your motives. Popping up out of the blue in your ex-flame’s life is a bold move. Naturally, your ex will want to know “why” you are resurfacing—and you owe them an honest explanation (hint: being honest with yourself is a great place to start). Here is the acid test: If you were to knock on their door (rather than use digital communication), what would you say? There are many reasons you may want to reconnect—nostalgia for your wild teenage years, or maybe you have moved to their city and need a friend. Don’t make them guess.

Share interesting information. It may be presumptuous to think that an old boyfriend or girlfriend cares as much about your life as you do. Think critically about what might matter to them. How will you engage your “audience”? Giving them details about what your kids are up to (when they haven’t met your little darlings) will probably put them to sleep. However, if you have information about old friends, teachers, or high school gossip that is wildly interesting, well, that’s a start. And don’t make your life out to be grand if you don’t think it is. Your communication will come across as “forced”, not a great way to re-establish trust.

Be clear about outcomes. Before you press ‘send’, figure out what you want the outcome to be. Do not be coy. Maggie wrote to Brian, “I’m not living far from Ottawa.” Well, is this just an interesting factoid—or, is she hoping to see him, but doesn’t have the nerve to ask? It would be better to write, “I’m going to be in town in a few weeks and would love to see you.” This is clear and invites a “yes” or “no” answer like “Great! Give me a shout when you are here – it would be fun to reconnect.” Or, “I’m flattered you want to see me, but I don’t think we would have that much in common anymore.” At least you will know where you stand.

I’m not necessarily against old flames reuniting even if they are now happily married to other people. Not every bit of outreach should be construed as a sexual advance. But at least be clever about how you reconnect. You owe your ex that much respect.

Photo credit:Flickr/Christopher Sessums

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