'Support' essential to make relationships 'thrive'
A new study suggests that healthy and meaningful relationships which have supportive individuals are more likely to thrive.
Researchers Brooke Feeney of Carnegie Mellon University and Nancy Collins of University of California emphasize the importance of relationships in supporting individuals not only in their ability to cope with stress or adversity, but also in their efforts to learn, grow, explore, achieve goals, cultivate new talents, and find purpose and meaning in life.
According to the researchers, thriving involves 5 components of well-being; hedonic well-being (happiness, life satisfaction), eudaimonic well-being (having purpose and meaning in life, progressing toward meaningful life goals), psychological well-being (positive self-regard, absence of mental health symptoms/disorders), social well-being (deep and meaningful human connections, faith in others and humanity, positive interpersonal expectancies), and physical well-being (healthy weight and activity levels, health status above expected baselines).
The researchers emphasize that there are certain characteristics of support-providers that enhance their capacity to provide meaningful support. Feeney explained that how a person provides support determines the outcome of that support. Any behavior in the service of providing SOS and RC support should be enacted both responsively and sensitively to promote thriving. Being responsive included providing the type and amount of support that was dictated by the situation and by the partner's needs, and being sensitive involved responding to needs in such a way that the support-recipient feels understood, validated, and cared for.
Support-providers may inadvertently do more harm than good if they make the person feel weak, needy, or inadequate; induce guilt or indebtedness; make the recipient feel like a burden; minimize or discount the recipient's problem, goal, or accomplishment; blame the recipient for his or her misfortunes or setbacks; or restrict autonomy or self-determination. They might also be neglectful or disengaged, over-involved, controlling, or otherwise out of sync with the recipient's needs.
Responsive support requires the knowledge of how to support others and take their perspective, the resources (i.e., cognitive, emotional, and/or tangible) needed to provide effective support, and the motivation to accept the responsibility to support another.
Support-recipients also play an important role in this process by facilitating or hindering the receipt of responsive support. The researchers emphasize that accepting support when needed, and being willing and able to provide support in return, should cultivate the types of mutually caring relationships that enable people to thrive.
The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Review.
(Posted on 02-09-2014)