Relationships & Family

The Power of Friendship

New research says most of us don’t realize how powerful a simple check-in can be.

Calling, texting, or emailing a friend just to say “hello” might seem like a simple gesture — a chore, even, that isn’t worth the effort –But new research suggests that casually reaching out to people in our social circles means more than we realize.

“Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say ‘Hi,’ that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they’re doing, can be appreciated more than people think,” said Dr. Peggy Liu. Dr Liu,  the lead author of a new study that found people tend to underestimate how much friends like hearing from them.

Across all her experiments, people underestimated how much a check-in would be appreciated.The more surprising check-ins tended to be especially powerful.

And the fact that these quick, simple check-ins were meaningful will hopefully encourage people to reach out to their social contacts more often “just because,” the researchers said.

This is not the only recent research to emphasize the power of small moments of connection. Another study, found that having positive social interactions gives a sense of purpose to older adults. Research like this suggests the people we spend time with daily have a “very large impact” on our well-being.

The new studies come at a challenging time for friendship and connection in the United States, which is in the middle of a loneliness crisis that grew much worse and and more complicated during the pandemic.

People also tend to assume our friends and acquaintances won’t be as open to us as we’d like, said psychologist Dr. Marisa Franco.

A lot of people feel awkward about reaching out because we underestimate how well-liked we really are. People may also hold themselves back because when we are vulnerable with others, we tend to worry we will be judged harshly. These kinds of negative beliefs can run through all aspects of friendship, Dr. Franco said, and could have a real impact on how we behave and interact.

But friendship experts like Dr. Franco say they hope the findings will stress the need to connect with others daily, and encourage people to see friendship as an important part of personal health, even if reaching out sometimes feels awkward or time-consuming.

“To be functioning at our best, we need to be in a connected state,” she said. “Just like you need to eat, like you need to drink, you need to be connected to be functioning well.”


The Surprise of Reaching Out - chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/