Supportive relationships breed self-confidence, ambition, study finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Having a little help from your friends and family can go a long way in your ability to succeed. A new study finds that people who report having strong, supportive relationships feel more confident in themselves and are more prone to personal growth.

Researchers at the University of Michigan examined the results of a trio of studies, in hopes of determining whether those who strive for improvement are intrinsically motivated, or are more so inspired to change due to the influence of their friends and family.

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A new study finds that people who report having strong, supportive relationships feel more confident in themselves and are more prone to personal growth.

The first study, which had about 200 subjects, assigned participants to one of three groups.

Before completing a thought experiment, participants in one group were asked to think about a person whom they trusted and with whom they felt comfortable, while those in a second group were asked to think about someone who didn’t share those qualities.

A third “neutral” group was asked to consider an acquaintance about whom they did not have strong feelings one way or another.

The subsequent experiment had participants select between one of two jobs: a position that paid well with high familiarity, or a lower-paying position that would require learning, although the training would lead to greater long-term career development.

Those who were asked to think of someone who they believed would support them selected the lower-paying position 65 percent of the time, compared to 40 and 50 percent of those in the less supportive and neutral groups, respectively.

The second study looked at data on over 3,800 Americans from the Survey of Midlife Development to evaluate the level of support a given individual received from family and friends.

Overall, those who reported that they had supportive relationships displayed a greater tendency toward self-growth and self-confidence, the researchers found.

A similar survey administered in Japan with 1,000 participants demonstrated similar results, validating the American data.

“The more supportive people judged their relationships to be, the higher their personal growth tendencies, even in a culture that puts more emphasis on the collective rather than the individual,” notes David Lee, the study’s lead author, in a university press release.

These findings validate the importance of seeing life through what the researchers deem an “I-through-We” perspective (i.e., personal growth can be pursued in large through strong interpersonal relations).

“Building positive social connections with others should put people in a good position to receive social support that is instrumental to personal growth, as well as allowing people to strike a balance between two fundamental values: to strive and connect,” Lee concludes.

The full study was published last month in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


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