The positive side of hurtful communication : when hurt feelings improve close relationships




Sun, Mao-Chia

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The adaptive effects of hurtful communication have rarely been observed in the hurt literature. This could be due to one or more of three limitations in the literature: an emphasis on major rather than minor hurtful interactions, a focus more on negative behavior than positive, or a recall of personal biases caused by situation-specific beliefs when examining the effects of hurt feelings. Given that research suggests that negative emotions can have a positive influence on relational outcomes, this dissertation investigated whether hurt feelings function to maintain and/or repair close relationships by addressing the aforementioned limitations. Building on Bradbury and Fincham’s (1987, 1988, 1991) contextual model, this dissertation examined the effects of both proximal and distal context factors on prosocial communication and relationship outcomes following major and minor hurtful interactions. A community sample of people involved in romantic relationships (N = 513) completed a set of questionnaires regarding hurtful communication. Overall, the results indicated that as opposed to message intensity and perceived intentionality, hurt intensity and communal strength positively predicted constructive communication and positive relationship outcomes; these associations were also mediated by constructive communication. Communal strength emerged as a stronger predictor of positive outcomes of hurt than did hurt intensity. Further, this study revealed the moderating effects of hurt on the link between the aforementioned factors and positive outcomes for behavior and relationships. In conclusion, the adaptive effects of hurtful communication were more pronounced in minor hurtful events than in major ones.


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