In a study published this month Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyThrough a series of experiments involving more than 5,900 participants, researchers found that people underestimate how much they appreciate reaching out to an apparently “out of the blue” or “just because” friend.
In one experiment, half of the participants were asked to recall the time they met a friend, and the other half were encouraged to recall the time they met. outsideThe first group’s ranking of how much they thought their gesture was appreciated was significantly lower than the second group’s ranking of how much they actually appreciated the contact.
When the researchers played this relationship directly in a separate experiment, in which people sent a friend a note or small gift and then assessed how grateful they expected the recipient to be, the recipients’ self-reported level of gratitude for the message or gift was significantly higher than the initiators would have predicted.
Generally, people love it when they hear from a loved one unexpectedly—but we constantly underestimate how much that outreach is appreciated.
Why do we underestimate how much a friend would appreciate reaching out to us randomly?
How to find out the reason for this difference between people Think about it A friend would respond to “just because” reach-out and how they actually do it, the researchers looked at what each group of people were thinking during their assessment.
“We found that recipients [of a random reach-out] “They focused on how surprised they felt in a positive way when they received the contact, which made them feel appreciated,” says Peggy Liu, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Joseph M. Katz Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Business. In contrast, the people who reached out were not considering how the recipient might respond positively to its surprise.” And as a result, they underestimated the benefit of their contact.
However, the study did not explore why Initiators were likely to overlook the potential positive surprise portion of their random notes or gifts, Dr. Liu speculates that it’s because they’re too busy worrying about other things — “like the recipient thinks it’s weird that they’re randomly reaching out,” she says.
In general, it’s also possible that initiators may worry about burdening or inconveniencing a friend with their message, says friendship coach Daniel Bayard Jackson (who was not involved in the study).
“In most cases, only one person will tell you that reaching out to say hello to a friend would be annoying or that you’re a burden.” – Daniel Bayard Jackson, Friendship Coach
“A lot of times, people convince themselves they’re doing something good by stopping contact,” says Jackson. “They don’t want to bother or interrupt a busy friend, so they assume the best choice is to just not reach out.” But from the above study, we know that it is unlikely that a friend will actually happen upset “Thinking of you” by text – and indeed, it will probably be much appreciated. “In most cases, reaching out to say hello to a friend is just someone telling you that you’re going to be annoying or a burden,” says Jackson.
The same thing applies when you look at research into how compliments are actually perceived and how people expect to receive them. Although researchers found that people generally appreciate receiving compliments, those who are asked to give compliments tend to underestimate how much they like a person, and instead, focus on how awkward and uncomfortable it might be for them to give it. concentrates. The recipient can feel it. “What we learn in both cases is that other people really appreciate what we think in a positive way, but there are all these mind games we play that prevent us from acting on that,” says Jackson.
Any awkwardness how to suddenly reach out to a friend, and just do it
Knowing that people appreciate random reach-outs from friends can make you feel more comfortable doing it yourself. But if that still bothers you, or if you’re worried about your note or intention being misinterpreted, read on for tips on reframing a random reach-out in a more positive light.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes
Perhaps the most obvious way to look at your out-of-the-blue text for a nice gesture is to mentally switch roles with the recipient. “I often remind myself that I appreciate it if a friend reaches out to me, so there’s no reason to think that a friend wouldn’t appreciate me reaching out to them the same way,” Dr. Liu says.
You can think of it as something like giving a surprise gift, says Jackson. “You wouldn’t decide not to give someone a birthday present because it might not be the exact gift they wanted or because you’re worried they won’t like how you wrapped or packaged it,” she says. The same goes for the “just because” text: it’s the thought that counts, and the element of surprise is likely to make them appreciate it all the more.
That gesture can be even more important during these difficult times, Jackson says, when someone may be struggling to remember that they are loved and important to others. “If you can draw a direct line between this small gesture of reaching out and a simple need to see and appreciate any person, it can help you find the courage to text a friend, and let them know they’re on your mind.” Jackson says.
Consider that you are already “just thinking about them” in your head
Chances are, you think about your friends often—as little things remind you of them throughout the day. Reaching out to someone at random is just a matter of pausing while they cross your mind and translate the thought into a message on the phone, Jackson says. You already are Mentally Reaching out to your friends, so why not just watch them in action?
Remember that you don’t have to ask them anything
You may associate asking for advice or asking for a friend to hang out with—and that can make you think your approach can be interpreted as a burden or asking. But keep it simple, says Jackson. “I saw this mug at Target and it made me think of you. I hope you’re okay,” can go a long way, she says. “It’s important to remember that saying something like this is enough.”
It’s often helpful to end your note with a period instead of a question mark, so your friend doesn’t feel like you need a response. “Hey, how are you?’ Instead of saying, just saying you’re thinking about someone—with a period at the end—can let them know it’s just a delivery, and you’re not trying to engage them in anything,” says Jackson.
Think about the potential benefits of your friendship overall
If connection is something you value with a particular person, that’s reason enough to reach out to them. Maintaining a friendship requires investment from both parties, and a “Hey, I’m thinking about you” text is certainly one way to uphold your part of the friendship agreement, says Jackson. If you do this often, you will not only leave a person feeling appreciated but can also help foster a sense of connection with them. Who knows, they might start doing the same to you.