We underestimate how much the simplest text or call means to our friends, family members, and colleagues. As a society, we tend to place greater emphasis on romantic connections in our lives. Texting a dating partner or spouse is frequently seen as de rigueur. However, friends often get us through the hard times and these relationships are also ones that should be nurtured and regarded as something significant and special. According to a recent study (published by the American Psychological Association, 2022) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, check-ins from friends are greatly important.
If we learned anything during the pandemic, it was that friendships are just like relationships in that they take work: it’s important to check in, to engage with one another, to see how the other is doing on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, new research suggests that such texts, phones and emails aren’t just necessary to sustaining a good friendship, but are also beneficial for mental health. Surprisingly, they can be brief but powerful. Casually, quickly, and regularly checking in with the people in our lives is one of the easiest, but highest-impact actions we can take.
Researchers asked study participants to check in with others in just to say hello or “catch up,” — a text, a brief call, a voicemail, or short email, and then directed both sides of the interaction to rate how meaningful it was. Those who reached out routinely underestimated how much their small act meant to the recipient. The researchers also found that the impact of the message increased with how surprising the check-in was. People we haven’t spoken to in a while apparently appreciate hearing from us.
If it’s not something you use regularly, here are some strategies to consider when checking in with someone:
-Greet them to acknowledge the day: How did you sleep, what does your day look like, what are you looking forward to this week?
-Ask open-ended questions: So, what’s new with you? How have you taken care of yourself today? If you know they have things they are struggling with: ￼Is there anything I can do to help support you?
-Wait and listen for the answer: You don’t need to have answers or solutions to problems.
Sometimes, just having someone available who is earnestly listening is enough to make a person feel cared for and supported. It is good for the mental health of both the recipient and the giver. The ‘Hey, good morning, how are you?’ can literally improve someone’s day.
Also see The Ingredients of Friendship.