How to point out what’s wrong with a lover, family or friend withoutruining the relationship(University of Rochester et al.,2020)


Purpose and Background of the Research

Empathy for your partner is said to be very important in a romanticrelationship.
This study tested how to empathize with your partner when pointing outwhat's wrong with them.

Research Methods

Type of ResearchObservational study
Experimental Participant111 couples who have been together an average of about 3 years
Summary of the Experiment
  1. The subjects were asked to talk freely about what they wanted theirpartners to change.
  2. All subjects were asked to answer the following questions
    • What emotions did you experience during the conversation you just had?
    • What emotions do you think your partner had during the conversationyou just had?
    • Do you want to fix what your partner pointed out to you?
    • How is the quality of your relationship with your partner?
    • Based on the above results, the researchers examined what emotionshave a positive or negative impact on romantic relationships.

Research Findings

  • When subjects were able to read emotions such as sadness,embarrassment, and guilt from their partners' facial expressions, thefollowing effects were observed
    • Relationships get stronger.
    • Your partner is also more likely to accept the improvements.
  • When the partner's facial expressions revealed emotions such as angerand disdain, the following effects were observed
    • Relationships get worse.
    • It's also less likely that your partner will accept the improvements
  • Your partner will recognize your feelings of sadness, embarrassment,and guilt as signals of empathy.
  • On the other hand, your partner recognizes your emotions like angerand disdain as the dominant signals.


The subjects in this experiment were couples.
However, the findings of this experiment are not limited to romanticrelationships, but can also be applied to family, friends andcolleagues.
When pointing out a problem, or being pointed out to you, keep thefollowing in mind.
These will help keep the relationship in good standing.

  • How to get a lover, family member or friend to fix what's wrong withthem without ruining the relationship
    • Don't hide feelings of embarrassment or guilt when you point out yourpartner's problems.
    • When pointing out your partner's problems, don't show anger or disdain.
  • How to respond when a loved one, family member or friend points outyour problems
    • Focus on your partner's grief and embarrassment as much as possible.
    • Respond to your partner's points while expressing shame and guilt.


Reference PaperBonnie et al., 2020
AffiliationsUniversity of Rochester et al.
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