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Why You Should Call Your Friends Now for No Real Reason

Reaching out at random builds and maintains connections with others.

Key points

  • Calling your friends only when you have a clear reason to do so can make them feel like bit players in your master plan.
  • Relationships aren't like vending machines. You can't just press a button when you need something. Instead, you have to maintain connections.
  • Scan your smartphone contacts list, look for folks whom you haven't talked to in a bit, and just call.
  • Even if you don't think you have the time, make it. Be creative and find spots here and there. Or replace some of your current activities.
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

I like to call people for no apparent reason. Not random people like a robocall, but people who are already my friends. And I tend to make such calls at random, unscheduled times. The reason? Well, technically, there should be no reason to make a call for no apparent reason. However, there are several general overarching reasons to get into the habit of making such calls.

To demonstrate the value of such calls, let me tell you about someone who never really made such calls. Let's call him "Planned Outlife." We initially met during my school days, Ever since I've known him, "Planned" pretty much—surprise, surprise-—planned out all aspects of his life. He seemed to do this very well, as he always appeared to get what he wanted, both career- and personal-wise. This included meeting the "right woman" at the "right time" so that he didn't have to deal with all those dating "Infinity Wars" stuff that the rest of us had to deal with and could instead focus on his career.

During school, he would call me frequently since I was fairly central to his social life. But once we graduated, his calls dropped off significantly. Since graduation whenever he'd call, there would be a clear purpose. Each time, he had a specific ask. Or at times his significant other was out of town and he was bored. In fact, it got to a point where each of the rarer times that he would initiate a call, my first thought was always, "Gee, I wonder what he wants from me now." By contrast, I continued for a while to reach out to him regularly, often just for the heck of it.

Over time, though, I grew tired of always being the initiator of calls and the maintainer of the friendship. It made me feel like a bit player in his master plan, sort of like that Janitor character from the TV series Scrubs. I started dialing down the number of times that I called him, in part to see whether he would notice and pick up the slack. Spoiler alert. He didn't.

Since he didn't really change his patterns and continued to only call when he had a specific reason, our communication dropped off significantly to the point that I didn't really consider him a friend any longer. Once, after a long stretch of no contact, he did end up contacting me because he—guess what—needed something. During that conversation, he essentially said, "Hey, we don't talk as much anymore. Give me a call sometime." Umm, didn't I already try doing that before?

Relationships with people aren't like using a vending machine. You can't simply expect a person to deliver the goods by the time you are ready to order something and press the button. True friendship Interactions shouldn't be largely transactional all the time. Instead, you've got to maintain a relationship, and show the other person that he or she is indeed a priority in your life.

A good way to maintain and grow your friendships is to call your friends here and there randomly just to say, "Hi." Scan your smartphone contacts list, look for folks whom you haven't talked to recently, and just call. If you say, "Hey there's just no time between all the work stuff, all the significant other stuff, all the family stuff, and all the having to watch cat videos on social media stuff," that's just not true. Make the time.

Replace some of that social media reading and posting with phone calls. Rather than communicating regularly with your 4,318 followers on social media, many of whom may be bots, don't follow the masses. Drop a real line to your real friends. Instead of listening to your 43rd podcast telling you how you should think outside of the box, get out of your box and call your friends.

The calls don't even have to be long. They can simply be check-ins simply to say, "Hey, I am here and know that you are there." That can even take less than five minutes.

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Such periodic calls will help you and your friends keep more up-to-date on each other's lives, assuming that you do actually care about each other's lives. It gives you more frequent opportunities to tell each other about major life changes, such as leaving jobs, starting a new career, breaking up with significant others, getting engaged, or getting a mullet. This can better position both of you to offer each other help when needed such as being there to console each other, provide support, tell each other not to get a mullet, or at least buy each other nice hats post-mullet.

Such periodic calls can also make it less awkward when you really need something from your friends. It's easier to simply continue an ongoing dialogue. Whereas having instead to start off a conversation with, "It's been a long time," or "I don't know if you remember me," does make it tougher to ask for help.

All in all, such calls can help create and maintain the connections that we as humans crave. The U.S. has been in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Many of our towns and cities are not like the Okinawa, Japans, and Sardinia, Italy's that Dan Buettner described in his book Blue Zones, where people feel more integrated with each other as parts of a connected social fabric. Instead, we spend so much time in separate boxes like cars, cubicles, and the castles that we consider our homes. There isn't as much opportunity to fortuitously run into different friends on the street so that you can stay in touch, real touch.

Some people like to say that everything happens for a reason. That shouldn't be the case with reaching out to friends.

More from Bruce Y. Lee M.D., M.B.A.
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