Jul 18, 2022 - Economy

Why you should check in

Illustration of a phone with the wire in the shape of a heart.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

We way underestimate how much the simplest text or call means to our friends, family members and colleagues.

Why it matters: Casually and quickly checking in with the people in our lives is one of the easiest, but highest-impact actions we can take.

  • That's according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers asked study participants to check in with others in small ways — a text, a brief call, a 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.
  • And researchers found that the impact of the message increased with how surprising the check-in was. People we haven't spoken to in a while or with whom we aren't as close are even more grateful to hear from us.

Our thought bubble: Long life experience shows us it's impossible to be too attentive to friends, relatives or coworkers — to check in too often.

  • You think you know someone, then they make some radical life decision, and you realize you didn't know them as well as you thought you did.
  • Even with people you truly know, life happens fast. Life-changing health news, work change, family rupture — any of those could happen the minute you put the phone down.

Zoom out: All that was true even before COVID. But before, you'd see people at work or church, and you'd get a sense of their moods and how they were doing. Now, in many cases, you have zero idea how someone actually is, even if you're Zooming with them. You have to ask.

Action item: That makes the proactive, intentional check-in more vital than ever. A transactional text or Zoom doesn't work.

  • You have to ask: How are you? What's going on? What can I do? What are your pain points? What's the best thing that happened to you lately?
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