How to See Old Friends and Not Have It Be Awkward

So, this past weekend, I went down to Kalamazoo to visit some of my old friends from college. I regularly see my friend Andy every few months, but Andy and I were meeting up with our other friend, Adam, who I don’t get to see very often at all since he lives in the far-too-far wastes of Ohio.

Fun fact – I can’t see what Adam’s shirt says. I am colorblind.

Adam and I used to be roommates and much of our experience and relationship has seeped into my roommate flash fiction series, Thom and Tom. Anyway, we were all getting together to celebrate Adam’s birthday.

It had been over two years since Adam and I last hung out. In that time, my wife and I have had two daughters, my writing career is more serious than ever, and my job has morphed to include all kinds of fun new responsibilities. From his side, Adam has made a major career adjustment and has started and maintained a serious romantic relationship. A lot has changed for both of us.

But nothing has really changed between our old roommate relationship and our current living-in-different-cities relationship. We can fall back into our old friendship as easily as an experienced musician can remember the feel of an instrument, and the tunes are still as sweet.

This isn’t always the case with seeing old friends. Too many times, once a person moves on with their life, it becomes difficult to maintain the friendship or to fall back into the old routines. Too much has changed. This, I would hazard, is the norm for most relationships. And even though conversation flowed as easily as the Dr Pepper at BD’s Mongolian Barbacue where we celebrated Adam’s birthday, I noticed that we were employing some communication skills that I learned back in college in order to make things more comfortable. I think we did this naturally, but a skilled communicator can do it intentionally and achieve the same level of comfort.

The main thing that I noticed was our use of “carriers”. I learned about carriers first from Dr. Paul Yelsma in my Small Group Problem Solving class at Western Michigan University. While I was in his class, there was no one in the world that I hated more than Dr. Yelsma. His teaching style was designed to make people cry, and from some of the reviews that I’ve read on Ratemyprofessors.com, many other’s agree with my assessment. Of course, if you read the rest of the reviews for Dr. Yelsma, you’ll learn, as I did, that though he was not a likeable professor, he was a brilliant educator and his material has stuck with me far more than most of my other classes.

But I digress… A carrier is a subject of interest that a person can talk about for while. Once you discover a person’s carriers, you just ask them one related question and they open right up. The fact that you know something they like and that you would care enough to ask them about it makes that person feel knowledgeable and important. It is a great way to help along a new relationship as well as rekindle an old one.

Without even thinking about this concept, Adam and Andy and I were volleying carriers back and forth for a while, catching each other up on what we were doing, genuinely listening to each other, and feeling loved and respected the whole time. It was a great experience.

If you want to make someone feel special, find out their carriers. Ask about them. Then listen. It works great for old friends, new friends, even romantic relationships.

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One response to “How to See Old Friends and Not Have It Be Awkward

  1. Oooh! Can I steal that concept? I love that I now know about “carriers.” Of course, we all probably “know” about them, but I never knew that there was a word for them. Does he have a word for “anti-carriers”–subjects that instantly make people tune out? I have some of those… just start talking about professional football, and my mind will drift to a more fun place. ; )

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