Interpersonal Emotion Regulation
Although people have several strategies at their disposal for managing their emotions, they do not need to face the challenge alone. A growing area of research is focusing on interpersonal emotion regulation to better understand who we seek out to help us manage our emotions and how they might be most effective. The EMBeR Lab has studied interpersonal positive emotion regulation for years, conducting research to better understand how individuals can capitalize on their positive emotional experiences by seeking out others. More recently, the lab has stepped back to consider the question through a wider lens. In our present research, our studies explore: 1) the interpersonal strategies people use to regulate their emotional experience, 2) the individual differences which help make some more effective at regulating our emotions than others, and 3) the specific relationships we rely on to regulate distinct emotions.
When you're feeling sad, who's most effective at cheering you up? When you're anxious, who's most effective at calming you down? Emotionships are the distinct relationships which serve specific emotion regulation needs. Although your best friend may be excellent at cheering you up, they may be less suited to calming your anger. In our lab we study these relationships to better understand the role they play in managing our emotions. Thus far, we have found that having more of these relationships that each serve to regulate a small number of emotions is associated with greater well-being. In other words, it's better to have many people you can turn to who are effective at regulating only one or two emotions. In contrast, seeking out only a few people and for all your emotional needs is correlated with lower well-being. Our present research on this topic has focused on why these relationships might be so effective. In an unpublished study, we find that when emotionships are sought out for the needs their best-suited to regulating, those individuals are perceived provide more responsive support. That is, we see our emotionship partners as more understand, caring, and validating of our experience compared to the support of others. However, the increased responsiveness appears to be limited to situations where the individual is seen as most effective. For example, after a negative event, a friend who best regulates sadness is perceived to be more responsive than a friend who best capitalizes on our happiness.
People who study this topic in the lab: Shelly Gable, Jason Anderson, & Meg Boyer