Speed Reads

feelings

Study: Cheering people up might be bad for them — and you

Instead of trying to turn a Debbie Downer into a Positive Patty, a new study finds that the best thing to do is validate that person's feelings and let them know you understand.

The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, involved 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 30 under six different scenarios, Today.com reports. Researchers discovered that people with low self-esteem don't want to hear uplifting tales, and just need to be left alone. "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 Dr. Denise Marigold, the lead author of the study. "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."

Instead, study participants with low self-esteem actually wanted to hear that their feelings were normal, and that it was OK to feel sad during certain situations. There's a downside to trying to cheer someone up, too: The researchers discovered that when a person tries to support someone and fails, they end up feeling bad about themselves. The moral of the story? Let Debbie wallow and it might be good for both of you.