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Reducing Angst Over the Overdue Phone Call

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Question: How do I call someone I have been neglecting to call but want to call without it being too awkward? – Anonymous


I think everyone has encountered that feeling at some point in their lives. People get busy, and they genuinely want to catch up, but after time passes, they feel guilty and awkward, and do not know what to say to preface the conversation before getting to the “catching up.” It is difficult to know where to start.

First I would say to think about what was holding you back from calling in the first place. Is it because you had an uncomfortable encounter the last time you spoke? Is it because you were simply busy with your own life, kids, work, general day-to-day hassles that literally make time pass before you realize it? Is it because you are afraid of what might result from the communication, ex, increased social demands?

The first thing I would recommend when trying to reconnect is to call at a time when you expect to reach the person. Do not call when walking on a loud street or in the car before entering a lost-call zone such as a tunnel. Let the person know that you truly want to hear them and to talk to them and give them your undivided attention. We all speak to our “regulars” in the midst of things, but if you want to reconnect with a person you have lost touch with, make the effort to show that the call is important.

Often anxiety gets in the way of reaching out to people we have lost touch with. On the one hand, anxiety can be informative. There are certain people who have disappeared from our lives for good reasons, and perhaps contacting them would lead to adverse outcomes. On the other hand, anxiety can simply be anxiety, and it can get in the way of repairing a potentially healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.

If you decide that you do actually want to reconnect with this person, I recommend treating the call like you would an important business call. It might sound cheesy, but writing down a list of things you want to discuss with the person can be a real anxiety reducer. It does not have to be used as a check list, but rather as an opportunity to get your thoughts down beforehand and, if there are any awkward pauses in the conversation, it will give you something to turn to. Also, if you call and the person does not pick up, it would be a good idea to leave a message with some specific times when you will be available.

Lastly, remember that the person you are thinking about contacting is also likely to be anxious and have their own feelings about the disconnection. If you think that the lapse in time is due to your own neglectfulness, say so. It will help clear the air and make room for the “catching up.” If it was not you, then recognize that you are making the decision to reach out to someone who may be somewhat flaky when it comes to staying in touch. Some relationships require a little more effort on one side. If you are comfortable with that, there is no reason not to go for it.

Jaime Black

Jaime earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Yeshiva University. She currently works in a private practice in NYC doing psychotherapy and career counseling. In addition to providing general psychological services, Jaime has extensive experience working with individuals of all ages on the autism spectrum. She lives in Hartsdale. (Advice given in Ask Jaime is not intended to be a substitute for individual psychotherapy.)

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