Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Listen! Comfort A Cornerstone For Many Female Friendships

Date:
June 7, 2005
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Most women are less forgiving of other women who lack comforting skills than of men who lack such skills, according to a new Purdue University research on interpersonal relationships. Researchers found just the opposite reaction for the few women who identify themselves as the most feminine.

Research by Brant R. Burleson, professor of communication at Purdue University, and Amanda J. Holmstrom, a Purdue doctoral student from Farmington, Ill., has found that most women are less forgiving of other women who lack comforting skills than of men who lack such skills. Burleson and Holmstrom teamed with Susanne M. Jones, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota to conduct the research. Holmstrom, the paper's lead author, presented the team's findings at the International Communication Association annual meeting on May 28 in New York. The paper is scheduled for publication in the journal Sex Roles later this year. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Most women are less forgiving of other women who lack comforting skills than of men who lack such skills, according to new Purdue University research on interpersonal relationships.

"Yet, in the same study we found just the opposite reaction for the few women who identify themselves as the most feminine," says Brant R. Burleson, professor of communication.

"Stereotypes say women should be better comforters. So, we expected to find that women would hold women to a higher standard, and when women did not meet these expectations, they would not be liked by others. However, this standard did not seem as important to women who considered themselves to be the most feminine."

How women valued their gender identity made a difference, he says. For example, women who were deeply attached to a traditional feminine role preferred female comforters over men even when both of those people used well-meant, but ineffective comforting messages.

"We think these women were paying attention to the gender of the person giving the message and not the content or effectiveness of the message," Burleson says. "But, additional study is needed to verify this explanation."

Burleson; Amanda J. Holmstrom, a Purdue doctoral student from Farmington, Ill.; and Susanne M. Jones, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, conducted the research. Holmstrom, the paper's lead author, presented the team's findings at the International Communication Association annual meeting on (Saturday) May 28 in New York. The paper is scheduled for publication in the journal Sex Roles later this year.

"Earlier research about the role comforting plays in friendships has evaluated how supportive messages affect the recipient and what makes a positive message, but few studies have considered the consequences for helpers if they use ineffective messages," Holmstrom says.

The research team conducted two experiments. In the first, 137 participants answered questions about stories they read illustrating the use of ineffective comforting messages by female and male helpers. In the second study, 44 men and 43 women discussed an upsetting event with either a female or male comforter who used ineffective comforting messages.

"Both experiments found that women did not like female comforters who used ineffective messages as much as they liked male comforters who used the same messages. In contrast, men equally liked the female and male helpers. These findings show that it is worse for women than men to be inept when providing emotional support, especially to other women," Holmstrom says.

"One limitation with these studies is that both have people reacting to strangers," Burleson says. "We next would like to see if the same is true for people in more developed relationships."

Other research, including work by Burleson, shows that the ability to effectively comfort people is a crucial component of successful friendships, especially women's friendships. Without good comforting skills, many women may not be able to maintain existing friendships or develop new relationships, he says.

"Sometimes people who are well-intended come across as insensitive when they fail to listen to a friend or when they give unsolicited advice," Burleson says. "For example, if a friend recently broke up with her significant other, then it would be inappropriate to say, 'You're better off without him,' 'There are more important things to worry about,' or 'Don't worry, there are more fish in the sea.'

"Comforting is not effective when it's a form of unsolicited advice, considered critical, or perceived as a put-down. The person is trying to help, but the approach is counterproductive. By imposing one's own frame of reference, the advice-giver also is failing to recognize the friend's feelings and pain."

Burleson says people can improve their comforting skills by making a commitment to listen rather than to give advice.

"Listen for your friend's perspective," he says. "Ask 'How are you feeling?' Acknowledge the person's pain. People remain upset because they can't make sense of their feelings or the meaning of the problem. That's why it is important to encourage persons who are hurting to articulate their feelings so they can work through the pain."

These studies were funded by Purdue's Department of Communication and the College of Liberal Arts Center for Behavioral and Social Sciences. The University of Minnesota Department of Communication Studies also contributed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Listen! Comfort A Cornerstone For Many Female Friendships." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050605182711.htm>.
Purdue University. (2005, June 7). Listen! Comfort A Cornerstone For Many Female Friendships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050605182711.htm
Purdue University. "Listen! Comfort A Cornerstone For Many Female Friendships." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050605182711.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins