Everybody has that one friend who isn't afraid to tell it like is—they're always there to give you the harsh advice you didn't think you needed to hear. As it turns out, it's been scientifically proven that the friend who gives you the toughest love wants what's best for you. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science found that empathetic people may try to make someone else feel negative emotions if they think it will be helpful in the long run, the New York Post reports.
Researchers wanted to find out if people would choose to induce negative emotions in another person if three conditions were met: If they felt empathy for the person, if the negative emotion would help the person achieve a goal, and if there would be no benefit for the person causing the negative emotion.
Researchers studied 140 adults who were asked to play a video game against an imaginary second player. Participants received notes from this fictitious person, and some were asked to imagine how the other player felt, while others were instructed to remain detached. They found that those who empathized with the person they thought they were playing with focused on inducing emotions in their partner in order to accomplish the goal of the game, supporting the researchers' hypothesis.
"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," says Belén López-Pérez, a psychological scientist who worked on this study at the University of Plymouth. So the next time it feels like a friend is being inconsiderate or harsh for no reason, perhaps they're just looking out for you.