148 Support Your Family & Friends

Based on research by Gable, Shelly L., Gosnell, C., Maisel, N., and Strachman, A. (2012), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Do you know how to help your family and friends feel supported?

Social Psychologists from the University of California, Veterans Affairs and E-Harmony laboratory came together to evaluate what influences people’s perceptions of the quality of their social support. In three studies consisting of over 280 participants, the researchers compared the differences between receiving or giving support after a positive versus negative event.

Results revealed that providing support for your friend or partner following a negative event is hard. This may involve risks and setbacks particularly if the support you give is not consistent with what your friend or partner needs. Results also indicated that supporting a spouse or friend during the good times might be more important than doing so when things get rough. Participants who felt supported during positive events, such as getting a promotion, reported feeling better about themselves and their relationships. However, feeling supported after experiencing a negative event, such as losing ones job, did not always yield positive results.

Acknowledging accomplishments and giving praise after a positive event can help your friend or spouse feel cared for. When unfortunate events occur, why not ask them what they need from you in order to feel supported?


Gable, S. L., Gosnell, C. L., Maisel, N. C., & Strachman, A. (2012). Safely testing the alarm: Close others’ responses to personal positive events. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(6), 963.

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