“If there’s someone you’ve been hesitant to contact, maybe you’ve lost contact with, you should go ahead and contact them, and they’re likely to like them a lot more. than you think,” Peggy said. Liu, the study’s lead author. Liu is the Ben L. Fryrear Professor of Marketing and Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.
Researchers conducted a series of 13 experiments with more than 5,900 participants to see if people could accurately estimate how much their friends appreciate their reaching out and which forms of communication have the greatest impact. In these experiments, reaching out was defined as a phone call, text message, email, note, or small gift.
The experiments revealed that initiators drastically underestimated the recipient’s reaction to the recording.
“It’s often less about the kind of big overtures we can make in our relationships and more about the little moments when we let a friend know we’re thinking of them,” said Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist and friendship expert who were not involved in the study.
A recipient valued communication more when it was surprising, such as when it came from someone they didn’t contact regularly or when the participant and recipient didn’t consider each other close friends, the study found.
“When you feel that sense of positive surprise,” Liu said, “it reinforces even more the appreciation you feel. »
“These kinds of smaller, lower-stakes relationships can go a long way in strengthening relationships early on, getting a friendship off the ground, and sustaining them over time,” Kirmayer said.
Overcome the anxiety of being rejected
Friendships need nurturing, said sociologist Anna Akbari. But various insecurities can keep us from reaching out, said Akbari, who was not involved in the study.
To overcome some of this discomfort, take note of the automatic thought patterns that arise when you think about communicating with a friend and try to push them away, Kirmayer said. These patterns can include ideas that one friend cares more and tries harder than another, or the assumption that a friend doesn’t like you back.
One of the most common fears about making contact is rejection, Akbari said. By focusing on the possibility of rejection, one can deprive oneself of close friendships and pleasurable experiences, she added.
It’s impossible to avoid rejection, so learning to be okay with it can make people more resilient, Akbari said.
People can also fight fear by putting themselves in their friends’ shoes and thinking about how they would feel if they received the touch, said Marisa Franco, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland and author of the forthcoming book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends. She did not participate in the study.
It can help push back the assumption that things will go wrong when you reach out, she added.
Use social media as a way to connect
Recent research has not evaluated the effects of reaching out on social media platforms, and friendship experts have conflicting opinions on the extent to which social media can make a difference when communicating with an old friend. .
For those not ready to text or call friends out of the blue, commenting or responding on social media can be a good place to start, Franco said.
However, using social media isn’t the most natural form of communication and can often lead to more superficial conversations, Akbari said.
“We confuse comments on social media posts with personal communication and connection rather than private exchange,” she said.
And while text or email communication isn’t as impersonal as social media, Akbari recommended people call their friends. Picking up the phone and making a call may feel awkward, but the connection will likely be more genuine, she added.
Younger generations have become conditioned to communication that doesn’t happen in real time, she said. As a result, they may experience performance anxiety when they pick up the phone.
“If we’re on the phone or face to face with someone, we have a dialogue,” Akbari said. ” You can answer. I can say something. There’s no ‘I’ll think about it’, ‘I’ll create exactly what is needed’ or ‘I can easily walk away if it makes me the slightest bit uncomfortable.’ »
Take the time to evaluate your friendships
This new study may help ease the anxiety people face when it comes to contacting friends, Akbari said. Since the main way people reach out is through private means of communication, the worst that can happen is that the recipient does not respond, she added.
“You kind of got your answer on how that person views you,” Akbari said of a lack of response. “You shift your attention to someone else who will be more grateful, who will reciprocate. »
Friendships can sometimes feel one-sided, where one person feels like they’re putting in all the effort, Kirmayer said.
Kirmayer noticed that many clients were increasingly concerned about carrying a heavy emotional load when it came to their friendships. However, this is often not the case, she added.
“Sometimes we can overestimate the extent to which we ourselves are the ones reaching out,” she said. “It’s also important to push that back a bit, to take note of the little moments when our friends reach out. »