Keep in touch! Old friends appreciate it when people achieve more than we think


 Keep in touch!  Old friends appreciate it when people achieve more than we think

WASHINGTON — Do calls from long-lost friends really excite you? You’re not alone. A new study finds that people often underestimate how much their old friends will appreciate when they get a call from them out of the blue.

The researchers found that participants who called, texted, or emailed someone in their social circle just to say hello consistently underestimated how much their friend would care about hearing from them. Meanwhile, the friend who received the message placed a much higher value on the surprising social interaction.

“Humans are inherently social creatures and enjoy connecting with others,” said lead author Peggy Liu, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, in a press release. “There is a lot of research showing that maintaining social connections is good for our mental and physical health. But despite the importance and enjoyment of social connections, our research suggests that people grossly underestimate how much others appreciate being reached.”

Friends love it when you call “just because”.

The study included multiple experiments with over 5,900 people looking at what factors influence the level of appreciation someone feels when others contact them.

In one experiment, the study authors asked half of the participants to remember the last time they contacted someone in their social circle “just because” or “just to catch up” after they hadn’t spoken to them for a really long time. The rest of the group went the opposite way and remembered how a long-lost friend contacted them.

The two groups then had to rate on a seven-point scale (1 meaning “not at all” and 7 meaning “very much”) how much the person receiving that communication appreciated or was grateful, grateful, or pleased about the message . For the people making the call, that meant guessing how much their friend enjoyed hearing from them. For the people who got the call, they just had to rate how much they appreciated hearing from a longtime friend.

The results show that when the two groups were compared, the people who reached out to them significantly underestimated their friend’s appreciation.

People enjoy surprises

In a separate experiment, participants sent a short message or small gift to someone they hadn’t seen in a while. Just like in the previous experiment, the group had to rate how much they thought their friend would appreciate the surprise on a seven-point scale.

After participants sent their notes and gifts, the team asked recipients to also rate how much they appreciated receiving a gift from an old friend. Here, too, the recipient attaches a much higher value to the contact than the recipient.

“We found that message recipients placed a greater focus on the element of surprise than those who initiated the message, and this greater focus on surprise was associated with higher appreciation,” Liu adds. “We also found that people underestimated the esteem of others more when the communication was more surprising than part of a regular communication pattern, or when the social bonds between the two participants were weak.”

Don’t let the pandemic stand in your way

Researchers say many people have likely lost touch with members of their social circle in recent years. Aside from people naturally distancing themselves from those they went to high school or college with, the pandemic has added another layer of social isolation for some.

Additionally, the team says people often worry about how someone perceives the gesture of reaching out after a long period of silence. However, the new study finds that saying hello is a much more welcome surprise than many might think.

“I sometimes pause for a variety of reasons before reaching out to people in my pre-pandemic social circle. When that happens, I think about this research and remind myself that other people might also want to contact me and are hesitant for the same reasons,” Liu concludes. “I then tell myself that I would appreciate it very much if they would reach out to me and that there is no reason to think that they would not appreciate it if I would reach out to them as well.”

The study appears in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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