Research Claims That Your Meanest Friend Is the One Who Actually Cares About You the Most

Friends generally fall into one of two categories. The first type is most always nice to you and keeps things politically correct. The second group of friends can come off as the mean ones; they’re brutally honest about things and don’t always let sensitivities censor themselves.

Despite their behaviour being able to invoke negative feelings within you, you might find that you’re often closer to that mean friend. Do you feel more comfortable, trusting, and confident in them? Have you ever wondered why? It turns out that mean friend may be the one that cares the most about you.

Keep Your Friends Close And Your Mean Friends Closer

Those brutally honest friends are the ones you should keep around. At first glance, this may seem a little backwards. Honesty can be uncomfortable. The truth can hurt. And, when someone dishes it, it can make them appear to be insensitive and uncaring. Yet, research is explaining that purposely mean friends often have a reasoning, and it’s not malicious in intent.

A 2017 research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, actually discovered that making people feel bad can be a strategy intended to help the subject in the long-run. They actually seek to cause negative feelings and reactions under the belief that doing so will be beneficial. It’s a caring, not malicious, intent. The lead scientist in the study Belén Lopez-Perez explained that the results may help explain the underlying motivation in emotional regulation between humans.

Cruelty Can Be A Kindness

The research started with a simple hypothesis. The assumption was that people would opt for the most negative options when they were tasked with imagining someone else’s plight and predicting how they’d act if the shoe was reversed. Researchers predicted that altruistic friends would associate the most negative experiences as to leading to the most positive teaching and goal attainment opportunities.

Researchers put the hypothesis to a lab test with 140 adults. Each took on the label of “player B.” Each player B was placed in a scenario of co-playing a computer game with an anonymous second player, each called “player A.” The participants had no idea that there wasn’t really any player A(s) in the equation.

The role of “player A” was setup by a manufactured note received by all the “B” players. The note detailed a helpless and upset “player A” over a recent relationship breakup. Researchers then stepped in to ask some of the “B” players to remain objective and detach themselves emotionally from player A’s plight. The remaining player Bs were asked to try and empathize with player A’s plight.

The study then split into two different gaming scenarios. The first team would play Soldier of Fortune, which is a first-person shooter game. The second team would play another first-person shooter game on a zombie island, which was called Escape Dead Island.

The hypothesis was put to the test after the participants finished playing their assigned games. Each had been exposed to various clips and music with various degrees of emotional subject matter. Each “player B” was asked to choose a level between one and seven for their counterpart, the imaginary “player A,” to be exposed to the clips and music. Participants were also tasked with rating how useful feelings of anger, neutrality, and fearfulness would be in playing the game, and to what extent they wanted their co-player to feel such emotions during game play.

Player Bs asked to empathize with their co-player at the beginning opted for levels which would invoke strong emotional responses in their co-player across the board. They specifically focused on the clip and music areas that, in relation to the game, would illicit more anger. Those playing the zombie game specifically opted for music and clips that created fear.

Researchers concluded that the group tasked with empathy wanted to generate stronger negative emotions in their hurt co-player as a means of emotional shadowing and success within the game. Perez also pointed out that the research suggested that people hold specific expectations on the effect of certain emotions and how certain emotional responses may be better in relation to achieving certain goals.

Perez says that the study ultimately helps us to better understand social dynamics. So, now you know why your mean friend makes you feel bad about the things they feel are holding you back at winning at life. It’s because they’re not detached from you and do have your best interests at heart that their tactics may come off as mean.

How do you feel about the mean friend being your most ardent supporter theory? Do you have friends like this? We want to know about your experience. Pass this along if you know someone trying to better understand a friend’s seemingly insensitive behaviour.

Our content is created to the best of our knowledge, yet it is of general nature and cannot in any way substitute an individual consultation by your doctor. Your health is important to us!