Don’t Tell a Suffering Person “It Could Have Been Worse”

sufferingAfter being subjected to the upsetting experience of receiving negative feedback on a task, research participants felt particularly badly, scoring an average of 4 on a 7-point positive-affect scale, if they were indirectly told that getting a low score on a task was a “not serious” event. By contrast, those who could decide for themselves on the seriousness of such an event felt less bad (4.63), even though they too tended to classify the experience as “not serious.” The research, by a team led by Kristin W. Grover of the University of Vermont, suggests that people who have suffered misfortunes feel worse when their experiences are minimized by others, but feel better when they internally minimize the experiences themselves. Saying “It was for the best” or “It could have been worse” makes sufferers feel misunderstood and isolated, the researchers say.

SOURCE: The boundaries of minimization as a technique for improving affect: good for the goose but not for the gander?


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