Sharing a good relationship with friends and family can boost confidence and keep you motivated to achieve greater personal goals, suggests new research.
The findings support the ‘I-through-We’ perspective. This means the social tendency to connect with others and the individual tendency to strive and grow as individuals, are not mutually exclusive and may augment and magnify each other.
For the study, researchers used data from samples from the US and Japan to determine if personal growth is an outcome of an individual’s traits or the positive relationships they have with others.
“The more supportive people judged their relationships to be, the higher their personal growth tendencies,” said the study’s lead author David Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University in the US.
“In other words, relationships do not necessarily conflict with but help sustain one’s personal growth,” Oscar Ybarra, Professor at the University of Michigan, said in a statement released by the university.
In one experiment, about 200 participants were randomly assigned to one of three relationship conditions: supportive, non-supportive and neutral.
In the two main conditions, some had to consider a person in their life with whom they felt comfortable (or not) and did not worry (did worry) about being abandoned by them. The neutral group had to consider an acquaintance for whom they did not have strong feelings.
Participants read a hypothetical scenario in which they had to choose between a higher paying job with high familiarity (Company A) or a lower paying job that required learning that would help their long-term career development (Company B).
Among those in the supportive relationship condition, 65 per cent selected Company B, whereas 40 per cent of those in the non-supportive condition chose the same company. Fifty per cent of the neutral group picked Company B.
Participants who thought about a supportive person were more willing to choose a job that promoted personal growth, even at lower pay, in part because they had more self-confidence, the study indicated.
In another experiment involving 3,800 participants, the researchers found that people who reported their relationships to be supportive had a greater willingness to grow personally and felt more self-confident.
The results were similar in the data from the Survey of Midlife Development in Japan, which sampled about 1,000 people.
The findings thus address both the importance of distinguishing yourself from others by fulfilling personal goals, but also being a good group member by fulfilling social obligations and cultivating supportive relationships.
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