Being tuned in to the other person’s needs is the simple skill that improves relationships, research finds.
Psychologists call it ‘responsive caregiving’ and it means being aware of your partner’s mood and how to respond to it.
For example, sometimes people want cheering up, other times they prefer to be left alone.
Responsive caregiving not only improves relationships between parents, but is also good for children.
The study revealed that a common set of skills improved all family relationships.
Dr Abigail Millings, who led the study, said:
“It might be the case that practicing being sensitive and responsive — for example, by really listening and by really thinking about the other person’s perspective — to our partners will also help us to improve these skills with our kids.
But we need to do more research to see whether the association can actually be used in this way.”
The study involved 125 couples and their children.
The results revealed that responsive caregiving was the key to being a good partner and was also linked to good relationships with children.
Dr Millings said:
“If you can do responsive caregiving, it seems that you can do it across different relationships.[It is the] capacity to be ‘tuned in’ to what the other person needs.
In romantic relationships and in parenting, this might mean noticing when the other person has had a bad day, knowing how to cheer them up, and whether they even want cheering up.[And it’s not] just about picking you up when you’re down, it’s also about being able to respond appropriately to the good stuff in life.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Millings et al., 2013).