If you’re like me (a human being struggling to keep up with today’s overwhelming communication demands), you’ve probably had this conversation with yourself after thinking about a friend you haven’t talked to in a while: “Should I send them a text just to say hi? Should I wait until I have something interesting to share? But it’s also been so long—maybe it’ll be awkward, or they’ll feel obligated to answer, or they hate me for being a horrible friend/person and they’ve blocked me by now.” (I hope, for your sake, that last one is more of a me thing.)
If that scenario is all too familiar and/or gives you anxiety just thinking about it, then I have some good news: New research suggests that, yes, you should go ahead and send the text—or make the phone call, or write the email. According to a study published last week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, your friend or acquaintance will probably appreciate your check-in more than you think.
And for those of us (hi) who are particularly concerned that it’s been too long for a “Hey, how’s your life?” text, the study authors also discovered that check-ins are especially welcome when the message is unexpected—that is, when they come from someone you aren’t super close with or who you haven’t talked to in a long time.
“There’s other research suggesting that when something positive happens to us, if it is also surprising, that amplifies the positivity of the experience,” lead study author Peggy Liu, PhD, a professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh who studies consumer psychology, tells SELF. “In our research, we’re finding that receivers feel even more appreciative of being reached out to when they weren’t expecting it.”
Dr. Liu also notes that a lot of people want to reconnect with friends but may feel unsure about making the first move. “I think many people have lost touch with others during this pandemic, for example, and they might be hesitant to reach out,” she says. “The research we’ve done suggests that one reason might be that you underestimate how much your friends or acquaintances would appreciate hearing from you.”
Of course, there may be other reasons why you’re reluctant to contact someone (see my catastrophizing above), and there are no guarantees that you’ll get the warm response you’re hoping for. But if you’re thinking about telling someone you’re thinking of them—whether it’s with a quick text, email, or (gasp) phone call—you probably won’t regret it. As Dr. Liu puts it: “Not only is the other person likely to appreciate it a whole lot more than you expect, as our research indicates, but based on my own personal experiences and those of some of my friends, you’re likely to feel pretty good yourself after you reach out.”
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