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Commentary: Reach Out and Call Someone

Beth Howard

I read an article last fall about a study proving the importance of reaching out to others to let them know you’re thinking of them, and how there is scientific evidence that the simple gesture gives both the initiator and the recipient a sense of wellbeing. I couldn’t remember where I read it, but I remembered its premise: that if you had the urge to reach out, you should just do it.

This past weekend I had dinner at the home of my friend Kathy whom I’ve known for over thirty years. We were reminiscing about the friends we had in common from all those decades ago, wondering what they were up to now. Remembering the article, I said, “Let’s reach out to them.”

Before Kathy had a chance to agree, I was already calling the first friend via FaceTime. She lives on the opposite side of the state and neither Kathy or I had been in touch with her for at least ten years. But the time and distance didn’t matter—she was thrilled to hear from us and promised to make an effort to visit. Encouraged by this, I dialed up another friend, one that we’d had a falling out with more than a dozen years prior. We had no idea how she would respond, but we didn’t let fear stop us. When our friend answered, she told us she was doing cartwheels over her joy that we had called. We subsequently made plans to meet for lunch, our friendship instantly repaired. We didn’t have the phone number of a third friend, but we had his email so we sent him a selfie and told him we were thinking of him. He replied an hour later, his note filled with exclamation marks and emojis, telling us how happy he was that we reached out, and proposed having a group call on WhatsApp.

I was recently on the receiving end of this “reaching out” when I got an email from a fellow camp counselor I hadn’t seen since I was 16—a whopping 44 years ago. “I don’t know if you remember me,” Dee’s email began.

I had done my own cartwheels of joy, replying with exclamation marks and emojis. “Remember you?!?! Dee, I’ve been looking for you for years!!!!” Turns out I had been spelling her last name wrong. That one email rekindled our friendship as if no time had passed.

After dinner, as Kathy and I said goodnight, we talked about how fulfilling our evening was, marveling at how a simple call, email, or text could make our friends—and us—so happy.

When I got home, I did an online search for that article I read last fall and found multiple articles as well as the study itself. The study, from July 2022 titled “The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think,” was conducted by Peggy Liu, Ph.D. at University of Pittsburgh who concluded there is “a robust underestimation of how much other people appreciate being reached out to.” One of the articles, on, included a quote from neuropsychologist Rachel Taylor who offered further explanation. “We have a fundamental need to have personal, meaningful connection,” she says, “so when people reach out to others this starts a biochemical reaction of hormones and neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (bonding and resilience), dopamine (reward and motivation), endorphins (feel good and pain relief) and DHEA (anti-aging). Mix all that together with fond memories and nostalgia and you will be building a nice pot of cognitive reserve which enables psychological and physical wellbeing.”

An article in University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good newsletter included a second study, demonstrating that the benefits of reaching out applies not only to old friends, but also to new acquaintances.

The AT&T phone company already understood this when they launched their “Reach out and touch someone” ad campaign back in the 1970s—when we still used landlines and long-distance phone calls cost upward of several dollars a minute. Today, with unlimited calling plans and video on our smart phones, it’s easier than ever to connect with others, and yet we feel increasingly isolated. We assume we’ll be bothering someone or that too much time has passed, but that’s almost never the case. So don’t hesitate. Take the initiative. Reach out and make the call, send the message. Both you and the recipient will be glad you did.

Commentator Beth Howard is an author and blogger. Her website is The World Needs More Pie.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.