You got a raise? How nice . . . How we respond to good news is important

 In Better Life, Communication, Relationships

How do you react when someone shares good news with you?  Studies show that the health of your relationship with the other person (especially if they’re your partner) is very dependent on your response.  In fact, how you respond to their good news is even more important than when they share something bad.  When I first heard of this, I was shocked! Most of us have heard how it’s important to listen and sympathize to show you care when the other person is upset.  The idea that what we say when they have exciting news matters more seems, well – – unusual.

Prof. Shelly Gable at the University of California-Santa Barbara has studied close relationships for years.  She’s found that out of four possible ways to respond to a partner’s positive news, only one—an “active constructive response”—is good. A negative or semi-positive reaction can undermine trust and satisfaction.

Let’s say your partner comes home and excitedly shares that they just got a raise.   Here’s how NOT to respond.

  • Active destructive – Frown.  “Well it’s about time!  They should have given you a raise last year.  I bet your raise is less than what (other person) got.”
  • Passive destructive – No expression.  “Did you remember to get milk on your way home?”
  • Passive constructive – Smile.  “That’s great.  By the way, do we have plans for this weekend?  I want to meet my friend for lunch.”

Here is how to best respond to build connection, trust and positive wellbeing for both sides.

  •   Active constructive – Smile.  Stop what you’re doing.  Make eye contact.  “How exciting!  I’m so happy for you!  Tell me more.  What did they say?”

Showing genuine interest and asking questions builds on the positive moment and can create an upward spiral.  This is true not only for our intimate relationships but also with our kids and in our businesses.

How did you respond the last time someone shared something they were excited about?


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is founder and owner of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.

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