More than words: reframing compliments from romantic partners fosters security in low self-esteem individuals

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Feb;92(2):232-48. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.232.


Although people with low self-esteem (LSEs) doubt their value to their romantic partners, they tend to resist positive feedback from their partners. This resistance undermines their relationships and has been difficult to overcome in past research. The authors investigated whether LSEs could be induced to take their partners' kind words to heart by manipulating how abstractly they described a recent compliment. In 3 studies, LSEs felt more positively about the compliments, about themselves, and about their relationships--as positively as people with high self-esteem (HSEs) felt--when they were encouraged to describe the meaning and significance of the compliments. The effects of this abstract meaning manipulation were still evident 2 weeks later. Thus, when prompted, LSEs can reframe affirmations from their partners to be as meaningful as HSEs generally believe them to be and, consequently, can feel just as secure and satisfied with their romantic relationships.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Ontario
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reinforcement, Social*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception
  • Time Factors