Putting the person into person-centered and immediate emotional support: Emotional change and perceived helper competence as outcomes of comforting in helping situations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

The goal of this study was to assess the effects of comforting messages using both experienced emotional change by the help recipient and help recipients' judgments of the helper's competence. A hypothesized path model proposed relationships between two comforting message factors (verbal person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy) and the two outcomes (emotional change and evaluations of helper competence). Data were generated from an experiment in which 258 participants disclosed a mildly upsetting event to a confederate trained to display different levels of person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. Participants subsequently completed a set of instruments tapping both their emotional state and the perceived competence of the helper on four dimensions (help motivation, supportiveness, conversation management, and expressiveness). A modified model with two added paths fit the data well and revealed not only that people felt significantly better but also that they viewed the helper as more supportive and caring after having received person-centered comforting messages. Nonverbal immediacy only influenced evaluations of perceived helper competence, such that immediate helpers were perceived as more competent than nonimmediate helpers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-360
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Research
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2004

Keywords

  • Affective improvement
  • Competence
  • Emotional support
  • Nonverbal immediacy
  • Person centeredness

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