So, we’ve all had the experience of supporting a friend or partner through a rough time in their life. And maybe some of us even pride ourselves on being exceptionally good at that—perhaps we’ve honed our listening skills, offered up just the right combination of comforting words, or volunteered to do some favors to ease the load. We might be pretty darn proud of ourselves. (Note: I am not talking about me! Ever since I was passed over for my middle school’s “Natural Helpers” Peer Support program, I’ve feared that I’m a terrible advice-giver.)
Did you know that how you respond to positive events in a friend or partner’s life is an equally important indicator of a good relationship?
Think about it. Have you ever shared good news with a friend only to have them respond unenthusiastically? Or with jealousy? Or immediately turn the conversation back to themselves? When this happened, you probably felt like a deflated balloon. That’s because these are the worst possible ways to respond to someone else’s good news.
What’s the right way? According to a smart researcher lady, Shelly Gable, of the University of California at Santa Barbara, it’s with an active constructiveresponse.
Active means you engage with the news, with some energy. Smile and make eye-contact. Give a hug. Ask follow-up questions. Constructive means you are positive about it. Express your delight. Avoid sharing your concerns or worries. Let the person share their happiness with you.
As an example, if your friend tells you she just got a promotion, an active and constructive response would be a big smile and a high-five, along with, “That’s awesome! What kinds of new responsibilities will you have? What are you most excited about?”
It’s possible to be active and destructive, as in “Ugh, your new job sounds like it’s going to be sooooo hard.” Or, passive and constructive, as in, not looking up from your phone while murmuring, “Oh. That’s nice.” But of course the optimal response is solidly in the active/constructive camp, so aim for that.
Think about how you tend to respond to other people’s good news. If you’re not already practicing active constructive responses (sometimes called ACR to sound extra official and nerdy), it’s something you may want to intentionally work on. It just might save your relationships!