Stop cheering me up: Some people don't want to hear it

Posted on July 10, 2014

So, your friend is wailing about the miseries of her bush league job, failed romance, clunker of a car, and all-around lousy life. Instead of trying to cheer her up by saying something positive like "things will get better," you might be better off agreeing that right now her life does indeed stink.

In a series of six scenarios involving some 1,000 participants ages 18-30, researchers found that people with low self-esteem don't want to hear your platitudes, and would prefer friends and loved ones see them as they see themselves. "Those with low self-esteem actually reject the so-called 'positive reframing,' or expressions of optimism and encouragement, most of us offer to them," says lead author Dr. Denise Marigold, an assistant professor at Renison University College at Waterloo.

The study showed that low self-esteem individuals would actually prefer "negative" validation, or an acknowledgement that their feelings are normal, reasonable and appropriate to whatever situation has them feeling down.

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Despite good intentions designed to boost spirits, people with low self-esteem “are simply more comfortable wallowing” in their misery, she adds. “What we think is well-intentioned support is really alienating for them. They feel as if people don’t understand their issues and don’t accept their feelings. It almost demonstrates a lack of caring.”

Source material from Today