When the reaching out happens in an expected context, without an element of surprise, the researchers found those reaching out typically had an accurate idea of how much the responder would appreciate their gesture or gift. “Thus, it’s really these unexpected reach-outs that people appreciate much more than we expect,” the researchers said.
This is good news in an age when loneliness is reaching its peak, particularly for older adults.
According to a University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, 56% of adults polled, all of them ages 50-80, reported that they felt isolated at least some of the time, compared to 27% pre-pandemic in 2018. And 48% of the adults surveyed said they felt more isolated than they did before the pandemic.
One boost might come from old friends reaching out, especially if the communication comes as a surprise.
Lead study author Peggy Liu, associate professor of Business Administration in the Marketing and Business Economics Area at the University of Pittsburgh, said people should work to overcome any qualms about getting in touch.
“When I find myself hesitating to reach out to someone with whom I want to reconnect, I think it’s useful to think about these research findings and remind myself that other people may also want to reach out to me and hesitate for the same reasons. I then tell myself that I would appreciate it so much if they reached out to me and that there is no reason to think they would not similarly appreciate me reaching out to them.”
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