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


WASHINGTON — Do you really get turned on by phone calls from long-lost friends? You are not alone. A new study finds that people often underestimate how much their old friends appreciate receiving a phone call from them out of the blue.

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

“Humans are essentially social creatures and enjoy connecting with others,” explains lead author Peggy Liu, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh in a press release. “There is a lot of research that shows that maintaining social contacts 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 appreciate being approached.”

Friends love it when you call ‘just because’

The study involved several experiments involving more than 5,900 people, looking at what factors play a role in the level of appreciation someone feels when others contact them.

In one experiment, study authors asked half of the participants to remember the last time they contacted someone in their social circle “just” or “just to catch up” after being away from them for a very long time. spoken. The rest of the group took the opposite approach, remembering that a long-lost friend contacted them.

The two groups were then asked to indicate on a seven-point scale (1 for “not at all” and 7 for “mostly”) to what extent the person who received this message appreciated, or felt grateful, grateful or pleased about the message. For people on the phone, this meant guessing how much their friend liked hearing from them. For the people who received the call, they just had to rate how much they appreciated hearing from an old friend.

The results show that the people who reached out significantly underestimated their friend’s rating when comparing the two groups.

People enjoy surprises

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

After the participants sent their notes and gifts, the team asked the recipients to also rate how much they appreciated receiving a gift from an old friend. Again, the person who received the surprise placed a much higher value on the contact than the person who sent the gift.

“We found that people who received the communication focused more than those who initiated the communication on the element of surprise, and this increased focus on surprise was associated with a higher rating,” added Liu. “We also found that people underestimated others’ appreciation to a greater extent when the communication was more surprising, as opposed to part of a regular communication pattern, or the social ties between the two participants were weak.”

Don’t let the pandemic get in your way

Researchers say that many people have probably lost touch with members of their social circle in recent years. Aside from people naturally drifting away from those they attended high school or college with, the pandemic has added another layer of social isolation for some.

In addition, the team says people are often concerned about how someone experiences the gesture of reaching out after a long period of silence. However, the new study finds that saying hello “just because” is a much more welcome surprise than many may think.

“For various reasons, I sometimes pause before contacting people from my pre-pandemic social circle. When that happens, I think about these research results and remind myself that other people may also want to contact me and be hesitant for the same reasons,” concludes Liu. “Then I tell myself I would appreciate it so much if they contacted me and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t appreciate it the same way if I contacted them.”

The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

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