Friends Appreciate a Surprise Check-in More Than You Realize

We all tend to underestimate how much others value an unexpected call or text, new research finds

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readJul 15, 2022

Photo: Pexels/Keira Burton

Friendships and social interactions are vital to our well-being, promoting good mental health and even physical wellness, according to much scientific research. We humans thrive on social connections.

But some of us — and this will sound hauntingly familiar or downright puzzling depending on whether you lean toward introversion or extroversion — don’t tend to think our friends and acquaintances appreciate us reaching out to them as much as we value them reaching out to us.

New research, however, finds people routinely underestimate how much their friends would appreciate an unexpected phone call, email or text just to say “Hi” or to catch up.

“People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” said lead author Peggy Liu, PhD, an associate professor of business at the University of Pittsburgh. “There is much research showing that maintaining social connections is good for our mental and physical health. However, despite the importance and enjoyment of social connection, our research suggests that people significantly underestimate how much others will appreciate being reached out to.”

The consequences can be significant in this era of social disconnection and a disconcerting rise in loneliness, particularly among young people, along with mounting research finding that loneliness leads to depression and other mental and physical ills and shortens lives.

Even distant friends will appreciate you

The new findings, detailed this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, apply not just to close friends. The less tight your relationship is to someone in your social circle, the more appreciation they’ll likely feel over your unexpected outreach.

To figure all this out, Liu and colleagues ran a series of surveys and experiments on more than 5,900 people.

When asked about a recent unexpected call, email or text interaction with a friend, people consistently said being on the receiving end made them feel…

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower