Reality Check: Overcoming Reach-Out Hesitancy

Even when our lives are going poorly, it’s still possible to feel satisfied if we have good connections with people.
Dr. Wm. Glasser refers to a basic need for love and belonging. While he suggests that the need is universal, the specifics of how we satisfy it can differ from person to person. Some need many close relationships; others need only one to satisfy this need.
However, if we consider only close relationships, we might dismiss the value of our casual connections. For example, we see people at work, school, in the neighbourhood or at social events. We often form friendships there, and while we share the joy of new babies and the sadness of deaths and illnesses, we don’t necessarily share heart-to-heart confidences. Maybe we hear a little news or gossip that brightens our day. Do those interactions make a difference in our lives?
My instinctive belief has been that they do matter. That was reinforced by a study recently published by the American Psychological Association (APA) titled, “The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think.”
The surprise for me in the study was the association of these interactions with very positive outcomes, such as, “Protection from stressful events…and anxiety,” “personal growth,” even “increased cognitive functioning.” Who knew?
Maybe you knew. Certainly, we know that our usual patterns were disrupted in recent years. We avoided crowds, gatherings, even going out for coffee. When we did venture out, we were masked, with the associated challenges of having expressions—including smiles—hidden.
For some, there were changes in employment: loss of work, retirement, or remote rather than in-person work. For others, reluctance or fear of contact has meant that we haven’t had the same opportunities to meet. Casual interactions have taken a hit, haven’t they?
Is it coincidental that many are feeling more anxious, more stressed, and generally more ill at ease than before?
If those connections contribute so much to our well-being, then it seems reasonable that we would do what’s necessary to have them. However, if we’re no longer in an environment where they happen by themselves, then someone has to take initiative!
Taking initiative can be difficult. Everything takes time and it’s easier to put it off. Maybe that person we used to have coffee with doesn’t want to hear from us. That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Perhaps old work friends will be suspicious about why we’re contacting them. What if you ask your bingo-night friend how the family is, and it turns out that someone died? That would be terrible.
However, the study indicated that people appreciate our effort to reach out and reconnect. It’s worth it.
Having gone through a time of reduced social contact, the authors acknowledge that we might be feeling “woefully out of practice and unsure.” But reaching out doesn’t have to be complicated. We needn’t apologize for not doing it sooner. It can be as simple as, “I’ve been thinking about you and thought I’d check in.”
As the authors say, “…go ahead and surprise someone by reaching out. Such reach-outs are likely to be appreciated more than one thinks.”
Are you holding back from reaching out to someone? Do you think it’s worth a try?

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