When your spouse, children, co-worker or friend comes to you with good news, how do you respond? Research on how we respond to good news reveals only one right way to respond. There are also 3 wrong ways. Repeating these 3 big mistakes too often can hurt a relationship.
My 12-year-old son sometimes talks a lot. I’ve noticed he talks the most when he’s excited. If I pay attention, I see the enthusiasm in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It happens when he finds a new bug, builds something out of scrap wood, or modifies one of his toys in ways it wasn’t designed to be.
But when I’m busy, I sometimes fail to listen. I don’t ask him to wait until I have a few minutes to hear what he has to say. Instead, when he comes with good news, I nod my head and say, “Uh, huh,” without taking the time to hear him. He walks away disappointed.
When my wife’s nearby, she’s good at noticing when I’m pretending to hear. She gets my attention and encourages me to stop and listen. But I need to learn to stop and listen without her giving me a cue.
I’m working on forming a new habit.
Shelly Gable is a research psychologist at University of California. Her research narrows the types of responses we have to other people’s good news down to 4.
The best way to respond to good news multiplies the positive effect of the good news. Not only that–it strengthens the bond between the two people involved. It increases trust, reduces conflict, and increases satisfaction in the relationship.
Avoid the first 3 responses when someone comes to you with a good report. These can cause people who care about to back away from you. Make a habit of the fourth.
1. The Passive-Constructive Response
This is when we say something like, “That’s nice,” or “Good for you!” I’m afraid I’ve used that one a lot.
2. The Active-Destructive Response
Some examples of this include: “Are you kidding me? There must have been some kind of mistake,” or, “There are others who deserved this more than you do.”
3. The Passive-Destructive Response
When we allow someone’s good news to go in one ear and out the other, we’ve perfected this one.
4. The Active-Constructive Response
When you want to build a stronger connection with someone, celebrate their good news with them. If you make comments like, “That’s awesome!” “Congratulations!” and, “You go!” you’ll score big if your enthusiasm is real. Then ask questions about what they told you. Once you’ve heard the headline of their report, ask them to tell you more. Listen to their story, ask questions, and give feedback to show you’re listening.
Pause and think about an opportunity you missed to cheer with someone about their good news. Visualize yourself in that moment giving the active-constructive response. Imagine the words in your response, your tone of voice, the expression on your face, and the added pleasure the other person might have felt from you sharing their excitement with them.
Now, go practice it on someone’s latest good news, and add more happiness to their day.