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Emotional Support Skill

Authored by: Brant R. Burleson

Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills

Print publication date:  January  2003
Online publication date:  February  2003

Print ISBN: 9780805834178
eBook ISBN: 9781410607133
Adobe ISBN: 9781135664114

10.4324/9781410607133.ch14

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Abstract

Distressed emotional states—anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, shame, and hurt—are a ubiquitous feature of the human experience. Frequently, we cope with these distressed states by seeking emotional support from friends, family members, or others in our social network. But seeking support does not guarantee the receipt of sensitive, effective support. Indeed, the quality of the emotional support people receive from others in their network varies widely, ranging from the sensitive and helpful to the insensitive and aggravating, and this has important consequences. As I discuss in detail later in this chapter, recipients of sensitive emotional support not only feel better, they cope with problems more effectively and may even be healthier. Moreover, sensitive emotional support frequently enhances the social relationship between provider and recipient. In contrast, recipients of insensitive emotional support may feel worse than ever, cope with problems poorly, come to devalue the personal relationship with the helper, and even suffer from stress-related illness.

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