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Should we be afraid of disturbing friends by contacting them?

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People consistently underestimate how much people in their social circle can appreciate an unexpected phone call, text or email just to say hello, according to research published July 2022 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The more surprising the contact, the greater the appreciation.

People are fundamentally social beings and like to connect with others», points out Peggy Liu of the University of Pittsburgh. “A great deal of research shows that maintaining social connections is good for 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.»

Liu and his colleagues (1) conducted a series of experiments with over 5,900 participants to determine how accurately people are able to estimate how much others will appreciate a contact attempt and what factors may play into this level of appreciation.

In one of the experiments, half of the participants were asked to recall the last time they contacted a member of their social circle for no special reason by email, text or phone, after a long period of absence. interaction with that person. The other half were asked to recall a similar situation where someone contacted them.

Participants who recalled having contacted someone then indicated, on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all, 7 = to a great extent), how much they felt that the person contacted must have appreciated, felt grateful, felt grateful or felt happy about this contact. Participants who recalled being contacted reported how they appreciated this contact.

People who remembered contacting someone thought the gesture was significantly less appreciated than those who remembered receiving 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 hadn’t interacted in a while. As in 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, be grateful for, and feel happy about this contact. After the notes/gifts were sent, the researchers also asked the recipients to rate their appreciation.

In all experiments, the communicators grossly underestimated how much the recipients would appreciate the act of communication.

We found that the people who received the communication emphasized the element of surprise more than the people who originated the communication, and that this increased importance of surprise was associated with greater liking.says Liu. “We also found that people underestimated others’ appreciation more when the communication was more surprising, as opposed to when it was part of a regular communication pattern, or when the social bonds between the two participants were weak.»

Many people have lost touch with certain people in their lives, whether they are friends from high school or college or work colleagues they used to see at the water cooler. or at the coffee machine before work gets distant. Initiating social contact after a long period of disconnection can seem daunting as people worry about how such a gesture might be received. These results suggest that others are likely to appreciate being contacted more than people think, says the researcher.

I sometimes stop before reaching out to people in my pre-pandemic social circle for various reasons. When this happens, I think of these search results and remember that other people may also want to contact me and hesitate for the same reasons.“. “I tell myself then that I would very much appreciate their reaching out to me and that there is no reason to think that they would not appreciate the same way that I do.»

Conversation: 10 behaviors to make yourself more sympathetic

(1) Peggy J. Liu, SoYon Rim, Lauren Min, Kate E. Min.

Psychomedia with sources: American Psychological Association, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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