There’s a deep well of encouraging phrases most people turn to when trying to cheer up a friend or loved one: “You’ll do better next time.” Or “It’s not really that bad, is it?” Or the relatively straightforward “Come on—cheer up!” All of these pick-you-ups are delivered with good intentions, but psychological researchers have known for a while that when they’re offered to certain people, they’re not very helpful. A new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examines this within the context of the listener’s self-esteem, and offers some very useful tips for how to comfort people going through difficult times.

The researchers, from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, ran a bunch of experiments involving how to best support people with different levels of self-esteem. They found that so-called “positive reframing,” which, as the name suggests, is an attempt to put negative events in their “proper” perspective, not only doesn’t resonate with people with low self-esteem, but can actually fully backfire and make the comforter feel worse about themselves because their comforting is not working, potentially damaging their relationship with the person they’re trying to comfort.

You may also like


More in Black Listed