Connecting With Others Has Benefits
Reaching out to others is appreciated beyond what you may realize.
Posted September 11, 2022 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- Loneliness and social isolation can have negative impacts on physical and mental health.
- With friendships and business relationships, it is easy to forget we're still humans and a positive compliment can go a long way.
- Research says people appreciate it when someone reaches out to them, even if some time has passed.
"I'll circle back."
"Let's connect soon."
These messages of connection may be shared in a text, an email, a social media post, a phone call, or during a video call, but more importantly, it is an invitation to be seen, heard, and valued. The desire to connect is now stronger than ever, perhaps, because the pandemic forced us to disconnect, physically, from others. Now, we understand the value of connection, especially when it comes to seeing someone in person.
After all, when the world shut down, we were suddenly forced to shift the way we communicate with others. While text messages, social media, or email aren’t new ways to reach out, the content of what we were sharing and how often we were talking with each other changed. Nearly overnight, social media was filled with photos and videos of people making sourdough bread, working from home with their ring lights, and people showing off their adopted dogs. And there were the heartbreaking stories of people losing their jobs or struggling to recover from the loss of a loved one.
Nearly every person I know—the student, teacher, parent, health care worker, grandparent, mental health care professional, factory employee, C-suite executive, philanthropist, doctor, and politician alike—struggled with feeling connected to their loved ones and colleagues during the shutdown. The comments varied from feeling unappreciated at work to wondering if their friend was "OK" when a text message wasn’t returned, to struggling with balancing multiple relationships when working from home. These things raise concerns about feeling isolated, either literally or physically or both.
Sadly, we live in an age of loneliness. According to the CDC, research from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), “More than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.” And this isolation, as noted by the CDC, can have serious health effects such as premature death from all causes, as much as a 50% increased risk for dementia, heart disease, and stroke. The mental health impacts are just as serious for the increased risk for depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
The barriers to connection, while they may seem obvious, may not always be intentional. In other words, we need to connect for our own physical and mental health and for the well-being of those we love and care about, but how do we connect in a meaningful and purposeful way in these times?
The good news is that this is easier to fix than one may assume. For example, setting aside five to 10 minutes and checking in on friends, including the ones who seem to be happy and "put together," because they are often the ones who suffer in silence. A "check-in" can be a phone call and leaving a message or a text and following up if you don't receive a reply.
And don't hold back the compliments. With friendships and business relationships, it is easy to forget we're still humans and a positive compliment can go a long way. A recent American Psychological Association (APA) piece offers this: “Research on compliments has shown that people offering compliments—which say something positive about a recipient’s traits or behavior—underestimated the positive impact of their compliments on recipients (Boothby & Bohns, 2021; Zhao & Epley, 2021a, 2021b as quoted in American Psychological Association).”
Also, checking back in with friends who you may not have seen or been in touch with uplifts them. While it may seem awkward, people really appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to connect. Research says, in the same APA piece, people appreciate it when someone reaches out to them, even if some time has passed.
Remember, you don't need "a reason" to reach out to someone to see how they are feeling. When you actually care, that authenticity can be felt. Last week, I integrated this into my own day. I reached out to someone I met only once.
When our paths first crossed, we were both in a hurry, and in our passing she mentioned her recent move was met with unanticipated challenges. Before our second "meeting," I decided to set aside 10 minutes of my time to pick up some flowers (instead of scrolling social media) for her at the local farmer's market. Not only did this gesture set an unanticipated tone of kindness, but it extended our conversation (time-wise) and deepened our discussion. She shared why she had to move, and this disclosure I believe came because she felt I was there to listen to her and not just rush through a "coffee" chat.
Reach out to a few people, and remember they don't have to be struggling with something for you to care. Everyone appreciates this kind gesture. Become the reason you're on someone's gratitude list.
American Psychological Association, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Process. The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think, May 15, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, "Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions.", (April 29, 2021).