Relationships are vital to our well being. Healthy and happy relationships can give our lives deep meaning and satisfaction. So what is the key happy relationships? Read on to know…

We all pride ourselves in being someone’s 4 am friend or the agony aunt. The one person everyone comes to advice and is present whenever a friend or family member needs help. Of course, this is a great quality and shows that you honour and value people.

But how do you respond to someone’s good news?

A colleague getting a promotion, a friend starting a business, your child winning a competition, your spouse getting acknowledged for their achievements, etc. And, what about their day to day triumphs?

Do you respond with:

  • Wholehearted enthusiasm to show your support
  • Downplay their victories
  • Let them know the difficulties ahead
  • Change topics so you can be focused upon

According to Dr. Karen Reivich, Director of Training Programs for the Penn Positive Psychology Center, there are four ways people respond to happy news. Interestingly, how people respond to good news is the key to happy relationships.

1. Conversation Killer

Girl happy boy busy looking at phone
Conversation Killer

Woman: ” Jamie, I am soooooo happy!! I got a new client. It’s a huge project and I will finally have funds to expand!!”

Man: ” Oh lovely, good work.” (While looking down at the phone and creating no eye contact)

Woman : (Looking a little disappointed) “Yes, I was waiting for something like that.”

Man: “Good for you, honey.” (Still looking down)

Woman : Looking around wondering whether to continue or leave the room.

This is an example of a passive constructive response. The listener is paying minimal attention but is still supporting the speaker. The speaker is very excited to share and wants to share more, but seeing the listener’s responses and level of interest, eventually loses their initial enthusiasm.

Another example, would be when you come back from work and your child comes bounding to you, ready to spill the good news on the latest news in their life, and you respond – ‘I’m tired’, ‘Can we do this later?’, ‘Go to your room and wait’, etc. And by the time you have become free, they have most probably forgotten or not interested anymore.

2. Conversation Hijacker

Girl overjoyed and man too, but for himself
Conversation Hijacker

Woman: ” Adam, I am soooooo happy!! I got a promotion. It will be a good raise and I will be responsible for the key projects!!”

Man: ” Amazing news!! I remember the time I got a promotion”. I was so happy!!. We bought this house after that! Such good days for us came after that!”

Woman : (Looking taken aback and confused) “Yes, I remember. Of course, it was such a wonderful time for us. You did great.”

Man: “Yes and you remember how we threw a party for my whole office too.” (Looking expectantly for more inputs and support)

Woman : Looking confused and hurt, wondering when did the topic change ?

This is an example of a passive destructive response. The listener is definitely excited, but not for the speaker’s news. The listener is not attuned to the speaker’s needs and soon starts remembering personal, similar incidents, and changes focus on him/herself.

Other examples of such responses would arise due to jealously, shame that they could not achieve, self-pity, or sometimes since they could not control their own excitement of some other unrelated good news.

3. Joy Thief

Girl happy but boy looking unhappy
Joy Thief

Woman: ” Derek, I am soooooo happy!! I got a new project. It’s a huge responsibility and it looks like I will get the promotion soon!!”

Man: ” Good! But be careful of what you are signing on. Is all the paperwork done? Are you sure you can handle this with your other responsibilities? Is this doing the right career move for you?”

Woman : (Looking less excited and more worried) ” I did think of everything but I guess I should consider it a little more…”

Man: “Yes, you remember last time you took a new project and it was such a mess! It took a toll on the children and me too. You need to be more careful. You always jump in! “

Woman : Looking worried and completely dejected.

This is an active destructive response. The listener is actively responding but points out all the problems. The speaker’s joy soon turns into worry and dejection. S/he may be protecting the speaker from later dejection or playing the devil’s advocate.

This situation could apply when children come with new propositions and parents try to forewarn them. They may do so out of concern, feeling of superiority, or just because they are scared.

4. Joy Multiplier

Couple hugging
Joy Multiplier

Woman: ” John, I am soooooo happy!! I got the job!! It is a wonderful school and the principal is really nice!!”

Man: (Full eye contact and attention on the speaker, mirroring the speaker’s tone and body language)” Oh, what wonderful news! We should go out and celebrate! You are so great and I am very proud of you!”.

(They hug)

“So what did they ask you? What did you like about the school?”

Woman : (Looking happy and dreamy) It was really wonderful dear! Yes, I would love to go out! I can’t wait to tell the children! (smiling)

“The questions were mostly about my experience and general attitude. The principal was very warm. They showed me the whole school and I loved meeting the other teachers and visiting the classrooms.”

Man: ” Great to hear, that it was so wonderful for you! So when do you start?”

Woman : ” Mostly by this Monday! How great is that! Let me go call Mom and share this amazing news!!”

(She leaves the room feeling exuberant and even more elated)

This is an active constructive response. The listener is actively responding with eye contact and tuning into the speaker’s feelings. S/he is following up with questions and show interest in the good news shared by the speaker.

The Speaker’s Takeaway

The speaker feels seen and his/her feelings validated by the listener. They feel someone cares for them and is genuinely happy for them. They get the warm fuzzy feelings of love and care as oxytocin is released. This leads to the speaker leaving the conversation with happiness and encouragement. They feel love for the listener who has made them feel validated.

When the listener is asking the follow-up questions, they are reliving their happy moments and basking in the glory. They are savoring a wonderful moment, thus their mood elevates and increases well-being.

The Listener’s Takeaway

The listener by being fully present and responsive is also happy. S/he has just shared and been a part of a wonderful conversation. Being kind and understanding of their partner releases oxytocin which gives them warm fuzzy feelings too.

Mirroring the speaker’s body language and emotion – the listener has ‘caught’ the enthusiasm and joy being spread by the speaker. Similar to the concept of laughter being infectious!

The Best Type of Response

This is the best type of response and the key to happy relationships. These day to day positive exchanges lead to long term ‘deposits’ in a relationship. They make both partners feel seen, heard, and understood. It develops their own sense of belief and helps them be their authentic selves.

So, choosing how to respond is a choice.

Responding positively, can be learnt with practice.

Choosing the active constructive response, is the key to happy relationships.

How are you choosing to respond today?

Prachi Bansal

Hi, I am Prachi Bansal. This blog is an endeavor to increase emotional intelligence and facilitate collaboration and communication amongst parents and children, friends, family, and co-workers. Thanks for stopping by:)

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