If you are like most people, you probably have cried more than once.
Can you remember the situation that made you to cry?
Did you cry because you were scolded by your parents or because a person meaningful in your life has passed away? If neither was the cause of your tears, could you have cried because you were so happy for your sibling who got married?
Although it might not sound that important, the type of situation a person cries in matters to other people. We either cry in pleasant situation like siblings getting married or in unpleasant situation like losing someone.
Why is this important to other people? Because from observing the situation someone cries in, we often make an inference about that person’s personality! For example we tend to think of a person crying in pleasant situation as being too emotional because we find the situation inappropriate for crying. We also think of a person who doesn’t cry in an unpleasant situation as being too cold-hearted because the situation seems necessary for crying.
To find out more about people’s judgment on crying individual in social situations, three researchers from Tilburg University, Michelle C. P. Hendriks, Marcel A. Croon, and AD J. J. M. Vingerhoets conducted an experiment. These researchers were particularly interested in knowing how people would think of a crying person in pleasant situation and in negative situation. In their experiment, Hendriks, Croon, and Vingerhotes provided participants with a hypothetical scenario about a person who is crying in a pleasant situation or in an unpleasant situation. After reading the scenario, participants answered how they thought of the crying person, what they would do for the crying person, and how they felt in presence of the crying person.
The result of this study found that in general, people would give more emotional support to a crying person than to a non-crying person in both types of situation. However, although people would give more support to a crying person, people would associate more negative characteristics like stupid and squeamish with a crying person than with a non-crying person especially in pleasant situations. These two results seem to contrast each other because we would expect a person to help another person who he or she likes. And since we like someone with positive characteristics than negative characteristics, it would make more sense if people associate positive characteristics to a crying person when they decided to provide emotional support.
It turned out that emotional support was given not to help the crying person but to ease the awkward feeling people feel in presence of a crying person. So just be mindful that when someone is comforting you while you are crying, that person wants you to stop crying because he or she feels awkward.
Although receiving support from other people when crying certainly makes us feel better, this might hurt the impression other people have on us. So if there is a person you want to make a good impression on, try not to cry in front of that person!
Hendriks, M. P., Croon, M. A., & Vingerhoets, A. M. (2008). Social reactions to adult crying: The help-soliciting function of tears. The Journal Of Social Psychology, 148(1), 22-41. doi:10.3200/SOCP.148.1.22-42