Connecting with a friend just to say “hello” might seem like an insignificant gesture — a chore, even, that isn’t worth the effort. Or maybe you worry an unexpected check-in wouldn’t be welcome, as busy as we all tend to be. But new research suggests that casually reaching out to people in our social circles means more than we realize.
Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and associate professor of business administration with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Business, studied this phenomenon and found people tend to underestimate how much friends like hearing from them.
She and her team ran a series of 13 experiments, with more than 5,900 participants, to see how good people are at guessing how much friends value unexpected contact. In some of the experiments, participants reached out to a friend; in others, they got in touch with someone they were just casually friendly with (a “weak tie”). Those reaching out were asked to rate how pleased and grateful they anticipated the contact would be to hear from them. The researchers then asked those on the receiving end of the check-in to rate how much they appreciated the contact. Across 13 experiments, those who initiated contact, significantly underestimated how much it would be appreciated.
Theirs is not the only recent research to emphasize the power of small moments of connection. Another study, published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that even small positive social interactions is linked with a sense of purposefulness in older adults.
We have all heard there is a pandemic of loneliness. So social psychologists hope these findings will underscore the need to connect with others on a regular basis, and encourage people to see friendship as an important component of personal health, even if reaching out sometimes feels awkward or time-consuming.
When was the last time you texted a friend just to check in and say hello? To join the conversation, click "comments" above. We'd love to hear about your experiences.
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1/2/2023 08:24:30 am
Dr and Dr,
Susan and Peter Glaser
1/8/2023 03:35:45 pm
So great, Greg, how you use both text and hand written letters. It’s easy to understand how by spanning those two very different communication channels, you stay connected with the people in your life.
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