Maintaining healthy, robust connections with family and friends can be difficult no matter who you are and what you do for a living, but lawyers often have a particularly challenging time.
It makes sense that it can be hard for people who work 70 hours a week, argue and parse intricate language for a living, and experience high stress levels to connect with others, even if they truly want to. But of course, it can be done if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Why You Need to Connect
Human beings are social animals; that’s the way we evolved. Studies consistently show that a lack of social interaction is bad for our health. It’s important to develop and maintain a few close relationships for longer, healthier lives and good mental health. You don’t need to be an extrovert and have a dozen best friends or be close with every family member down to your third cousins, or even socialize constantly. You just need to have a few good people in your life who you can regularly connect and unwind with.
How Did You Become Disconnected?
Increasingly, we live much of our lives looking at our phones and interacting online. It’s easy to like a comment on social media or send an emoji-filled text—much easier and quicker than making a phone call or going out to lunch together. Add the average lawyer’s crazy work schedule to our increasing reliance on technology in instances that used to require speaking to people, and it’s no wonder that we end up going too long without having real conversations.
Think about why or how you stopped spending time with family and friends that you used to enjoy talking to. Did you have to cancel because of work so often that they now rarely ask you to hang out? Were you usually the one to plan everything and now you don’t have the time or the energy once your long workday is finally over? Or have you grown apart from your friends or loved ones and aren’t sure how to get back into the groove of your former relationships? The reasons for your disconnection will inform how you can start to work on it.
How to Reconnect
To get back into the swing of spending quality time with those you miss, you’ll need to make a real commitment to action. It’s easy to fall into the habit of texting or talking on social media about “making plans” and then never doing anything in the real world. Don’t just talk about it; make concrete plans that involve a time and a place and add it to your calendar. You need to make socializing an important part of your schedule, just like other appointments. If you’re the one who’s been canceling, it’s extra important to make sure you schedule your hanging out session at a time that you’re guaranteed (as much as possible) not to have to cancel again. You’ll only annoy the person you’ve made plans with and they’ll be less likely to want to set aside time in their schedule for you.
Remember, your aim is to make socializing and connecting with others a regular part of your life and schedule again. If you can, try to make a standing lunch/dinner/drinks/whatever with someone you want to make an effort to see regularly. The most important thing is to make plans and keep them, unless it’s literally impossible to do so.
To reconnect with family members, you just have to show up. That’s it! Your parents/siblings/grandparents simply want your attention and presence. So surprise your grandparents and show up at Sunday dinner, stop by for beer and sports with your dad, or instead of being the only sibling who doesn’t compete in the monthly brothers-against-sisters bakeoff, participate! Just show up and talk to your family—find out what’s new in their lives, eat a meal, help them move. You don’t have to have fancy plans, you just need to spend some time with the people who care about you and want to be a part of your life.
If you’ve grown apart from friends and want to get back on track, you’ll need to make sure you’re still on the same page as your old crew. Tell them what you’re doing—you’re trying to reconnect with the people you miss spending time with. If they’re receptive and enthusiastic, make plans right away! But keep in mind how long it’s been since you’ve seen each other and how long you’ve been growing apart. If it’s been a while, do you still have things in common? Don’t be surprised if, for friends you haven’t seen in a while, you don’t necessarily fall right back into the same pattern you had before. If you and your friends have changed a bit or developed new interests, that just means you’ll have new and interesting things to talk about. If you find that any of these connections simply are no longer meaningful or positive for you, don’t feel guilty about letting them go.
If you just got clobbered by work and stopped having time to plan things, feel free to put less pressure on yourself. Each time you see your friends doesn’t have to be a structured event or an all-night rager. Catching up over a home-cooked meal or grabbing a drink together may be all you have the time and energy for, and that’s fine.
Once you reconnect with the people you’ve been missing, make time with them a priority. Structure these connections into your regular schedule, just as you would commit to an exercise class or other things you need to do for yourself.
Over the next two to three weeks, make firm plans with the people you’ve fallen out of touch with. And—most importantly—KEEP THOSE PLANS unless not doing so will get you fired. If all goes well, continue to make regular plans to keep these relationships going.