Connections with others and strong relationships are a foundational part of resilience. This entails being there for someone when something goes wrong, as well as being there when something goes right. If we are not there when things go right, the relationship can suffer, even if we are there every time something goes wrong. When someone shares a positive emotional experience, there are four styles of responding that can help or hurt relationships: active constructive, passive constructive, active destructive, and passive destructive.
Before we go into them, let’s lay out a scenario. Your best friend comes over and tells you that they just got their dream job offer. It requires traveling to Europe for a week every month and is exactly what they want to be doing. They are so excited about it and rushed right over to share the news. How are you going to respond?
Active Constructive (aka joy multiplier):
“That’s amazing! I’m so happy for you! When do you start? Where in Europe are they sending you? Do you get to travel and sightsee while you’re working?” You are paying attention to the other person– making eye contact, smiling, putting down other distractions, and mirroring the other person’s excitement. You ask questions after hearing the news and are authentically engaged with the other person. Their good news becomes shared joy between two people and leads to greater relationship satisfaction and strengthened relationships.
You don’t have to be a cheerleader to be actively constructive, it could be as simple as asking a follow up question. This style of responding feels good for you and the other person, as they get to relive the excitement of the news all over again with you.
Passive Constructive (aka conversation killer):
“Oh that’s great. Hopefully you like it better than your last job.” Here, you are giving understated support and there is no sense that you are really into the conversation with the other person. Another way to be a conversation killer is to tell the other person to come back in a little bit when you’re ready to hear the good news. For example, you just walked in the door from a long day at work and want to change and eat something before talking to anyone. We all feel this way sometimes, but chances are that the person is no longer going to be as excited to share the good news with you when you’re finally ready.
Active Destructive (aka joy thief):
“Traveling to Europe once a month? That’s a lot of time away from home and a lot of flying. Sounds miserable to me. Are you sure you want to take this job?” Here, you are pointing out problems, concerns, and downsides to good news. Rather than getting excited with the other person, you create negativity and drain the positive emotion out of the person.
Passive Destructive (aka conversation hijacker):
“I have good news too. I finally got that raise I’ve been asking my boss for.” You change the conversation to something else after hearing the good news rather than responding to it. You might be envious of the other person, or just have news that you’re excited to share too. Either way, this style of responding hurts the relationship.
Change Your Response Style
TLC-VR is here to help you strengthen relationships and build resilience. Next time someone comes to you with good news, take a look at how you respond to them. We all have an automatic response style, but work on changing it to be more active and constructive. With this response style, you’ll find that your relationships with others will improve and become deeper and more meaningful.