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The positives of negative emotions: willingness to express negative emotions promotes relationships.

journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2008 by Steven M. Graham, Julie Y Huang, Margaret S. Clark, Vicki Helgeson

Four studies support the hypothesis that expressing negative emotion is associated with positive relationship outcomes, including elicitation of support, building of new close relationships, and heightening of intimacy in the closest of those relationships. In Study 1, participants read vignettes in which another person was experiencing a negative emotion. Participants reported they would provide more help when the person chose to express the negative emotion. In Study 2, participants watched a confederate preparing for a speech. Participants provided more help to her when she expressed nervousness. In Study 3, self-reports of willingness to express negative emotions predicted having more friends, controlling for demographic variables and extraversion. In Study 4, self-reports of willingness to express negative emotion measured prior to arrival at college predicted formation of more relationships, greater intimacy in the closest of those relationships, and greater received support from roommates across participants' first semester of college.