As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy – even when it’s not what you want to hear. And we all have those people in our lives who tell it like it is … maybe too often.
According to research published in Psychological Science, these people may sometimes cause you “negative emotional experiences that they believe would ultimately help” in the long run. Why? Because they care.
“We have shown that people can be ‘cruel to be kind’ – that is, they may decide to make someone feel worse if this emotion is beneficial for that other person, even if this does not entail any personal benefit for them,” psychological scientist Belén López-Pérez, a lead researcher on the study, explained.
Ever wonder why that one friend will push you to do things out of your comfort zone or won’t take your side when you need them to? It may seem like they’re stubborn – and maybe they are – but they challenge you for your benefit, not theirs. They’re mean for a reason. “We identified several everyday examples where this might be the case,” López-Pérez continued. “For instance, inducing fear of failure in a loved one who is procrastinating instead of studying for an exam.” Sound familiar?
And it’s these friends you should keep around because, as long as they’re thinking of what’s best for you, their intentions really are pure. They’ll know when you need a wake-up call and will keep you in check instead of simply agreeing with your every move. Like Scary Mommy states, when it comes to hard life decisions (or any decision really), “nobody benefits from having a ‘yes (wo)man.'”
Ultimately, the findings concluded that “we sometimes try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal” because of nothing more than empathy. It’s the same reason parents show their kids tough love. Though children may not always see it, discipline is for their own gain.
“Being cruel to be kind,” when it comes down to it, can be a telltale sign that you care.
[h/t Scary Mommy]