Presence is better than presents
From a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
This week I learned a new term, 'micro-moments of positivity'. It describes those small acts of kindness that make us feel loved and a recent study, suggests that small acts of kindness, not grand overtures, make people feel most loved and supported.
In the study, 495 men and women between the ages of 18 and 93 completed a questionnaire evaluating 60 possible ways that people can feel love. Each question began with, "Most people feel loved when..." The scenarios included situations like spending time with friends, a kind word, cuddling with a child, receiving compassion, receiving gifts, and spending time in nature. The survey also included negative interactions, like being controlled and criticised by others.
Study participants ranked human interaction as a more significant expression of love than receiving material items, like presents. Connecting with others was also rated more highly than getting positive feedback on the internet, indicating that people derive the most support from personal human contact.
Although people had strong consensus on the loving feelings communicated by scenarios with romantic connotations like “they are hugged,” “someone tells them ‘I love you’,” and “they are holding hands,” people also had strong consensus on non-romantic scenarios like “a child snuggles up to them,” “their pets are happy to see them,” or “someone shows compassion toward them in difficult times” as indicators of felt love.
It is interesting to note that all the scenarios listed above had an interpersonal (even between people and pets) aspect to them. On the other hand, people were mostly split on items that did not have an interpersonal context (e.g., “the sun is shining” or “they eat their favourite food”), demonstrating a higher degree of uncertainty about these scenarios.
People agreed strongly that scenarios like “someone tells them what is best for them,” and “someone insists to spend all of their time with them” did not make them feel loved. If examined closely, these scenarios—although interpersonal—contained a controlling theme. While lovingly intended to encourage health and wellness, they often result in distress in the receiver.
Male participants showed less knowledge of the consensus on felt love than female participants. This gender difference about experiences of love aligns with many of the past research on this topic. Specifically, research has shown that men and women differ in their thought process about the concept of love. Men are more likely to think about sexual commitment and the pleasure when thinking about love, whereas women are more prone to thinking about love as emotional commitment and security.
People in relationships knew more about the consensus on felt love than people who are single. Since love is defined as an interpersonal connection between two people who share micro-moments of positivity in the midst of their daily life, people who are in a relationship and have more chances of experiencing and receiving these signals of love may have more knowledge of what makes them feel loved than those who are not in a relationship.
The research suggests that gestures don't need to be large or have a big price tag to feel meaningful. This should take the pressure off at Christmas and other occasions where presents are given and received.
Your presence along with small acts of kindness are far more meaningful.
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