Reach Out and Touch Someone

Remember the commercials that encouraged us to “reach out and touch someone” with a phone call? Their motto bounced around in our heads long before cell phones and texting. Now it’s even easier to “reach out and touch someone,” right? Just send a quick text or message them on Facebook. So much easier… or is it? Is texting enough to “reach out and touch someone”? Is it enough to keep a relationship strong and healthy? A study published in 2020 sought to answer that question.

In this study, participants predicted how awkward or enjoyable it would be to contact a friend with whom they had not interacted for two years. They also predicted how close they would feel after the contact. They made these predictions for both phone contact and email contact. Then they were randomly assigned to contact their friend by phone or email.

Most participants thought phone contact would make them more uncomfortable than email contact. However, this did not prove true. Those who made phone contact felt no more discomfort than those who made email contact, even if they had said they preferred to email. On the other hand, those who called were happier with the interaction and felt closer to the person they called than those who simply emailed.

In a second part of this study (following the same procedures as the first part), participants were randomly assigned to a voice chat, a video chat, or a text chat. Similarly, the voice chat and video chat resulted in feeling significantly closer to the other person than those who engaged in a text chat. Video chat and voice chat, on the other hand, revealed similar outcomes in satisfaction and sense of closeness. These results suggest that our voices are particularly powerful for increasing intimacy.

When I think about that, it makes sense. From the time we were babies, and even in utero, we have responded to and discriminated between voices. When we are stressed or upset, the voice of loved one, a spouse, or a parent can calm and soothe us. And how many of us would love to hear the voice of a loved one “just one more time” after they pass away?

What does this have to do with family? If you want to increase intimacy with your family, text a little less and call a little more. If you want to maintain closeness with your spouse and children even when you disagree, give them a call because it promotes greater understanding when we hear one another’s voice than when we read their text. In fact, hearing the voice of a family member may be the the medicine to cure what ails you. So, increase the intimacy in your family. Close the texting or messaging app. Dial the number and reach out to touch your family with a phone call or video chat. You’ll both be glad you did.

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