Friendship Day: Why you should reach out to old friends


“If there’s someone you’ve been hesitant to contact, maybe you’ve lost contact, you should keep contacting them, and they might like them more than you think,” Page said. Liu, lead author of the study. Liu is the Ben L. Fryrear Professor of Marketing and Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business.

The researchers conducted a series of 13 experiments with more than 5,900 participants to see whether people could accurately estimate how much their friends appreciated their reaching out and which form of communication had the greatest impact. In these experiments, reaching out was defined as a phone call, text message, email, note, or small gift.

The experiments showed that the initiator greatly underestimated the recipient’s response to the recording.

Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist and friendship expert who wasn’t involved, said: “It’s often less about what kind of big gestures we can make in our relationships and more about how we let friends know we’re thinking about their little ones. moment.” in the study.

The study found that recipients valued the communication more when it was surprising, such as from someone they didn’t contact often, or when the participant and recipient didn’t consider each other to be close friends.

“When you feel that positive sense of surprise,” Liu said, “it reinforces your sense of gratitude.»

“These smaller, lower-risk relationships can strengthen relationships early on, build friendships, and maintain them over time,” Kirmayer said.

Overcome rejection anxiety

Sociologist Anna Akbari says friendships need to be nurtured. But Akbari, who was not involved in the study, said various insecurities can keep us from reaching out.

To overcome some of these discomforts, pay attention to the automatic thought patterns that arise when you’re thinking about communicating with a friend and trying to push them away, Kirmayer says. These patterns might include the idea that one friend cares more and works harder than another, or the assumption that one friend doesn’t like you.

One of the most common fears of exposure is rejection, Akbari said. She added that by focusing on the possibility of rejection, a person can deprive oneself of close friendships and pleasant experiences.

Avoiding rejection is impossible, Akbari said, so learning to accept it can make people more resilient.

Psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland, forthcoming in Plato: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make and Keep Friends. She was not involved in the study.

It can help overturn the assumption that things go wrong when you reach out, she added.

Use social media as a means of contact

Recent research has not assessed the effects of reaching out on social media platforms, and friendship experts have conflicting views on how useful social media can be when communicating with old friends.

For those who aren’t ready to suddenly text or call a friend, leaving a comment or reply on social media can be a good place to start, Franco said.

However, using social media is not the most natural form of communication and often leads to more superficial conversations, Akbari said.

“We conflate comments on social media posts with personal communications and connections rather than private ones,” she said.

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While text or email communications are not as impersonal as social media, Akbari advises people to call their friends. She added that picking up the phone and calling can be embarrassing, but the connection could be more real.

The younger generation has become accustomed to communication that doesn’t happen in real time, she said. As a result, they may experience performance anxiety when picking up the phone.

“If we’re on the phone or face-to-face with someone, we have a conversation,” Akbari said. “You can answer. I can say something. There is no ‘I’ll think about it’, ‘I’ll create exactly what I need’ or ‘If it makes me a little bit uncomfortable, I can walk away easily’.»

Not ready to call yet? Write a thank you note, says Harry Rees, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and chair of the Department of Arts, Sciences and Engineering. He was not involved in the study. The practice of gratitude has been shown to lead to “strong and secure social relationships,” According to a 2021 study in the Journal of Applied School Psychology.

Take the time to evaluate your friendship

Akbari said the new research may help ease the anxiety people face when connecting with friends. She added that since the primary way people contact is through private communication, the worst-case scenario is that the recipient doesn’t respond.

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“You’ve got answers about how that person sees you,” Akbari said of the lack of response. “You turn your attention to another person who will be more grateful and rewarding. »

Friendships can sometimes feel one-sided, Kirmayer said, and a person can feel like they’ve put in all their hard work.

Kirmayer has noticed that many clients are increasingly concerned about carrying a heavy emotional burden when it comes to friendships. However, she added that is often not the case.

“Sometimes we overestimate how much we ourselves are reaching out,” she said. “It’s also important to push this back a little bit, to notice the little moments when our friends reach out.”

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