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What new research says about randomly reaching out.
- Researchers say the idea for this study came from the pandemic, when more casual interactions stopped happening in their lives.
"… we felt like we were losing out on opportunities for those natural connections to arise," Dr. Peggy Liu said, and wondered: "Why?"
Dr. Liu and her colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh decided to study how we assess the cost/benefit of reaching out to someone we haven't engaged recently.
Researchers conducted multiple experiments with nearly 6,000 people to explore how people perceive and receive being reached out to.
Example: Participants sent a short note or a note and small gift to someone they hadn't spoken to in a while. The giver rated how much they thought the other person would appreciate the gift. Receivers rated their appreciation afterwards.
Bottom line: "… people significantly underestimate how much others will appreciate being reached out to."
"Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say ‘Hi,’ that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they’re doing, can be appreciated more than people think.”
Dr. Liu also noted the importance of the "role of surprise" in their study. When the interaction came out of the blue, the receiver felt even more grateful than the person who reached out expected.
"… Americans report having fewer friendships than they once did, talking to their friends less often, and relying less on their friends for personal support."
Senior Fellow in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute, Daniel Cox, on a May 2021 survey. Cox noted that although the pandemic "is the most obvious culprit in the national friendship decline," other factors — including Americans marrying later in life and working long hours — could also play a contributing role.
During the first year of the pandemic, nearly half of Americans reported losing touch with "at least a few friends" but also making new friends during that time.
Dr. Liu notes her behavior has changed with her research. If she finds herself hesitating before reaching out to someone, she says: "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."
Friends enjoy being reached out to more than we think (Science Daily)
Here's The Study: The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think
The State of American Friendship: Change, Challenges, and Loss (Survey Center on American Life)
by Jenna Lee,