As the academic year draws to an end, some of us may soon have to say goodbye to our closest school friends. Perhaps you’ll be studying abroad, starting an internship, or just moving in different friendship circles. While we like to think that best friends forever really does mean forever, life doesn’t always turn out that way.
Before you panic, it is definitely possible to maintain old friendships – provided they are worth maintaining. Young Post asked Isaac Yu, a registered counselling psychologist from Hong Kong Shue Yan University, for some advice on how to keep friendships alive – and how to spot when they are dying.
“It requires the effort of both people to maintain a relationship,” said Yu.
In other words, when you start to notice a fading friendship, remember that both you and your friend are responsible for it.
Yu encouraged readers to “be proactive” in keeping in touch with their friends, if they truly value the relationship.
It could be as easy as sending short greetings or photos to your besties via social media platforms, or using special occasions to celebrate your friendships.
“Regular reunions could be scheduled on birthdays, graduation anniversaries, or a day which means something special to you and your friends,” Yu said.
But what do you do if your friend doesn’t reciprocate? If you find that your friend is being unresponsive, or continues to make excuses or empty promises, it’s best to “respect their decision”, but also “not take it personally”.
“Try not to blame your distant friend, and understand that he or she has already moved on to a new phase in their life,” said Yu.
Or it could be that your friend is busy trying to juggle everything from schoolwork to part-time jobs to extracurricular projects, and they can’t invest as much time in friendships as they used to.
But how do you know when it’s time to let go of a friend and move on?
Yu suggested following “the rule of three”.
“Stop when something does not work three times,” he explained.
“For instance, you could start by asking them out face-to-face; if it doesn’t work, ring them; if it’s still in vain, give it some time before you send them a message.”
“That will give them more room and time to digest and respond to your message,” he added.
If all your attempts fail, don’t push your friend further; instead, give them some space, Yu advised.
It’s easy to feel insecure and worry that if a friend no longer speaks to us, we are somehow to blame.
It can then be tempting to bombard that friend with even more messages and calls to try to work out what we’ve done wrong, said Yu. “However, this will worsen the situation and scare your friends away.”
“When teenagers are very concerned about their own feelings, they might overlook the feelings of others,”explained Yu. “But communication is always a two-way street, and we should always take into account the feelings of others.”
What’s more, an inactive friendship does not necessarily mean a dead one. As people’s priorities change, they may be able to devote more time to relationships they’ve let fall by the wayside.
“Life is interesting. You might suddenly reconnect with an old friend, after you’ve each lived your own lives for a while.”