So, if you’re stressed about something in life—whether it’s an upcoming presentation or performance, or a trip to an unfamiliar territory, or a big party you’re responsible for planning—it may bring you significant relief to, you know, talk about it with someone who has either been there or is going through it with you.
This may seem like a given—like something that doesn’t necessarily require research to confirm. But in the moments when stress and anxiety creep in and become all-consuming, it can be difficult to remember what helps to alleviate them.
According to a study led by Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor at USC Marshall School of Business, it is the specific interaction with a person who genuinely understands your emotion and response, and ideally is also experiencing it at the same time, that will provide measurable relief from stress.
For the study, Townsend and colleagues paired up participants who displayed “emotional similarity” and instructed them to deliver a speech while being videotaped. Each pair was told to discuss their feelings leading up to the presentation with one another, and as this was all happening, their cortisol levels were measured and documented.
They found that within these pairs, the simple act of talking with one another acted as a buffer from experiencing the high levels of stress typically associated with preparing for a speech. The results, which were published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, send the message that finding an emotionally “similar” partner may be key to keeping calm and carrying on when faced with potentially stressful situations.
- Townsend, S. S. M., Kim, H. S., and Mesquita, B. (2013, December). Are you feeling what I’m feeling? Emotional similarity buffers stress. Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi: 10.1177/1948550613511499. Abstract retrieved from http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/16/1948550613511499.abstract
- USC Marshall School of Business. (2014, January 29). Two stressed people equals less stress. Press Release. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-01/umso-tsp012914.php
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