We all think about it from time to time, “I should reach out to that old friend to see how they’re doing.”
It might seem like a small gesture, but scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say their study proves that reaching out to an old friend “just because” has a greater impact than one might think.
The researchers ran an experiment involving more than 5,900 people, in which they had folks text or call — or in some cases, sent an actual note or a small gift to friends with whom they’ve lost touch. Afterward, they polled both the givers and the recipients, grading how much that gesture meant on a points system.
Overwhelmingly, the researchers found, those that were the recipients of that call, text, or small gift reported high levels of appreciation, coupled with positive feelings from the surprise. On the other hand, those who made the effort consistently underestimated how much that gesture meant to the recipients.
The researchers noted that some of those who reached out felt hesitant to do so, but the scientists say those fears proved to be unfounded, particularly in light of how many of us lost touch because of the pandemic, and elements of life now like remote work.
The study’s author, Peggy Liu, Ph.D., said, “I sometimes pause before reaching out to people from my pre-pandemic social circle for a variety of reasons. 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.” “People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” she concludes, noting how important maintaining social connections is “for our mental and physical health.” Dr. Liu’s study findings were also published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
So, those old telephone commercials were on to something when they told us to “reach out, and touch someone.”