People consistently underestimate how much others in their social circle might appreciate an unexpected phone call, text or email just to say hello, and the more surprising the connection, the greater the appreciation, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.
“People are fundamentally social beings and love to connect with others,” said lead author Peggy Liu, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh. “A lot of research shows that maintaining social connections is good for our mental and physical health. However, despite the importance and enjoyment of social connections, our research suggests that people significantly underestimate how much others will appreciate being contacted. »
The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments involving more than 5,900 participants that explored how accurate people are at estimating how much others might appreciate a connection attempt and what factors might play into that level of appreciation.
In one experiment, half of participants were asked to recall the last time they contacted someone in their social circle “just because” or “just to catch up” via email, text or phone, after a prolonged period of not interacting with them. . Other participants were asked to recall a similar situation where someone had reached out to them. Participants were then asked to indicate on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all, 7 = to a great extent) how much they or the person they contacted (depending on the condition) enjoyed, felt grateful, felt grateful or felt satisfied with the contact. People who remembered reaching out thought the gesture they remembered was significantly less appreciated than those who remembered receiving a communication.
In other experiments, participants sent a short note, or a note and a small gift, to someone in their social circle with whom they had not interacted in a while. Similar to the previous experiment, participants who initiated the contact were asked to rate on a 7-point scale how much they thought the recipient would appreciate, feel grateful, and feel satisfied with the contact. After the notes/gifts were sent, the researchers also asked the recipients to rate their appreciation.
In all experiments, those who initiated the communication drastically underestimated how much the recipients would appreciate the act of reaching out. The researchers also found an interesting variable that affected how much a person valued a handshake.
“We found that those receiving the communication placed more emphasis than those initiating the communication on the element of surprise, and this increased focus on surprise was associated with greater appreciation,” Liu said. “We also found that people underestimated the appreciation of others more when the communication was more surprising, as opposed to part of a regular communication pattern, or when the social bonds between the two participants were weak. »
Many people have lost touch with others in their lives, whether they are friends from high school or college or colleagues they used to see at the water cooler before the work does not become distant, according to Liu. Initiating social contact after a long period of being disconnected can seem daunting as people worry about how such a gesture might be received. These results suggest that their hesitation may be unnecessary, as others will likely appreciate being contacted more than people realize.
“I sometimes pause before reaching out to people in my pre-pandemic social circle for a variety of reasons. When this happens, I think of those search results and remember that other people may also want to contact me and be hesitant for the same reasons,” Liu said. “I tell myself then that I would appreciate it so much if they reached out to me and that there is no reason to think that they would not appreciate the same way that I contact them. »
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Materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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