Some consequences for helpers who deliver "cold comfort": Why it's worse for women than men to be inept when providing emotional support

Amanda J. Holmstrom, Brant R. Burleson, Susanne M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to assess whether responses to helpers who used insensitive emotional support vary as a function of the interaction between sex of participant and helper. We hypothesized that women would evaluate an insensitive female helper and her behavior more negatively than they would an insensitive male helper. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 137) read conversations in which male or female helpers sought to comfort emotionally distressed friends. In Experiment 2, participants (N = 87) engaged in face-to-face interactions in which they were comforted by either a male or female helper who used insensitive comforting messages. Overall, the results imply that women with deficient emotional support skills may be at high risk of rejection by same-sex peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-172
Number of pages20
JournalSex Roles
Volume53
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Cristina M. Gilstrap for her assistance with data collection for Experiment 1. The authors would like to thank Jessica Immel, LeeAnn Price, Brendan MacFarlan, and Casey Moran for serving as confederates for Experiment 2 and Kristina Olson, Erin Kavaney, and Ely Sluder for serving as coders for Experiment 2. Preparation of this article was supported, in part, by a fellowship awarded to the second author by the Center for Behavioral and Social Sciences, School of Liberal Arts, Purdue University.

Keywords

  • Comforting
  • Emotional support
  • Gender role expectations
  • Heuristic information processing
  • Social skills
  • Women's friendships

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