A Great Valentine’s Gift – How You Respond to Their Good News

 In Relationships

Have you ever been excited to share some good news with your partner, kid, or friend, but you only received a lukewarm response before they turned the conversation to their own “stuff?” How did you feel? I’m betting it was not only disappointing, but you probably felt less connected to the other person.

Studies show that the health of a relationship is very dependent on how each person responds to the other’s good news. In fact, it’s even more important than when they share something bad. I understand how important it is to support the other person when they’re upset, but do I also make it a point to join in with my friend’s or husband’s excitement? (Especially if I’m not in a very good mood?)

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 someone’s positive news, only one—an “active constructive response”—is good. A negative or semi-positive reaction can undermine trust and connection.

Let’s say a friend calls and shares how excited they are about their upcoming trip. Here’s how NOT to respond.

  • Active destructive – Frown. “Do you think that’s a good idea? It sounds expensive, and you’re going to miss a lot of work. And you will miss seeing your (kid/grandkid/dog/cat).
  • Passive destructive – No expression.  “Today, I had this annoying customer I had to deal with. They . . . (bla bla bla).”
  • Passive constructive – Smile.  “That’s great. By the way, are we still getting together for lunch next week? I want to make sure I put it on my calendar.”

Here is how 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.”

Showing genuine interest and asking questions build on the positive moment and can create an upward spiral. This is true not only for our close relationships but also with our kids and even in our businesses. It can be hard if we’re struggling with our own stress or frustrations, but it’s worth the effort.

This Valentine’s Day, consider how you can provide the gift of boosting someone’s good news by joining in with them to celebrate.

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