Calling or texting a friend more appreciated than we think, study finds

·2-min read
Kate Winslet (left) and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday (Universal Pictures/The Holiday)
Kate Winslet (left) and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday (Universal Pictures/The Holiday)

The question of whether reaching out to a friend would be considered “annoying” is a familiar one for many people.

However, getting in touch with friends via a note, call or text is more appreciated than we might think, a new study has suggested.

People consistently underestimate how much others in their social circle might appreciate unexpected contact, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found.

They also found that people were even more grateful for the contact when it came as a surprise.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined 5,900 participants to assess whether people understood how much others value being reached out to.

In one assessment, half the participants were asked to recall the last time they reached out to someone in their social circle “just because” or “just to catch up” after a prolonged period of zero contact.

Other participants were asked to recall a similar situation where someone reached out to them.

They were then asked to rate how much they appreciated the contact.

Those who reached out were significantly less likely to highly rate the levels of appreciation of the contact compared to those who were contacted.

Similar results were found among people who reached out to someone they had not spoken to for some time.

They found that if the contact was a surprise, the level of appreciation reported was even higher.

The study’s lead researcher is urging people to get in touch with friends and loved ones, especially if they haven’t been in contact during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” she said.

“There is much research showing that maintaining social connections is good for our mental and physical health.

“However, despite the importance and enjoyment of social connection, our research suggests that people significantly underestimate how much others will appreciate being reached out to.”

She added: “We also found that people underestimated others’ appreciation to a greater extent when the communication was more surprising, as opposed to part of a regular communication pattern, or the social ties between the two participants were weak.

“I sometimes pause before reaching out to people from my pre-pandemic social circle for a variety of reasons,” Dr Liu said.

“When that happens, I think about these research findings and remind myself that other people may also want to reach out to me and hesitate for the same reasons.

“I then tell myself that I would appreciate it so much if they reached out to me and that there is no reason to think they would not similarly appreciate my reaching out to them.”

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