One of the most critical components of a close friendship is support. Friends rely on each other to be there during stressful times and to support one another during emotional and physical challenges. When an individual encounters a particularly traumatic or disturbing event, the support of a close friend could make a big difference in how well he or she copes.
Several studies have examined the effects of support during stressful times, but most have looked primarily at verbal responses. In a new study, Melissa Ming Foynes of the University of Oregon sought to explore how a person perceives support based on verbal and nonverbal responses.
Foynes recruited 53 sets of friends and asked one to disclose to the other a particularly distressing event that had not been previously shared. The exchanges were evaluated for verbal and nonverbal behavior, and the reactions of the disclosing friend were measured based on those factors. Foynes discovered that two factors influenced perceived support above and beyond all others:
- When listeners sat back in their chairs, the disclosers felt unsupported when compared to those who disclosed to listeners who sat upright.
- Listeners who interrupted moderately during the disclosures were perceived as more supportive than those who did not interrupt.
The results also revealed that the stability of the relationship between discloser and listener also affected the levels of perceived support so that those with strong relational bonds reported higher levels of perceived support than those with low levels of relational bonds.
Foynes believes these findings could be useful to clinicians working with people who have experienced trauma or stressors. “Such information can be used to guide friends and family in responding more supportively to first-time disclosures of stressful life experiences,” Foynes said. These results could help shape the direction of group and family therapies designed to help individuals cope with negative experiences.
- Foynes, M. M., Freyd, J. J. (2012). An exploratory study evaluating responses to the disclosure of stressful life experiences as they occurred in real time. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028408
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.