When presented with good new, do you respond to your partner, friends, family members and work colleagues in an engaged and enthusiastic manner?
The way you respond could well be influencing the happiness and stability of your relationship… Let me explain…
I have been reading a piece of research (Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004).
What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and
interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228-245.) which suggests that the way couples respond to each other’s good news affects their relationships, possibly more strongly than how they respond to bad news.
In therapy, often we work with people who are experiencing problems, troubles or issues in their relationships and so we tend to see relationships responding to bade news far more often… I think many therapists as well as people in relationships really only ever think of how to deal with the unexpected or negative issues.
The findings in the cited research today, is important because so much of couples therapy focuses on resolving conflicts, fighting fairly, and being assertive… You know the kind of stuff. Couples are advised on how to respond in the face of adversity or when cracks start to appear in the relationship.
In modern medicine and therapeutic intervention, it is a fairly modern phenomena — the notion of preventative care — that is, taking care of yourself before you get ill, or need therapy or medical assistance. Leading a healthy life, taking measures to be psychologically well and so on, means that we are better prepared when issues arise, or those issues simply so not arise in the first place.
Can the same kind of ethos be applied to relationship?
In the research, something termed as ‘active-constructive responding’ is considered beneficial… So for example, if a spouse arrives home from a day at work and proudly announces that they have been promoted and got a healthy pay rise, how the other person responds to that is key… The afore mentioned active-constructive responding is enthusiastic and engaged… A response along the lines of:
“Congratulatins, I am so proud of you. You really earned it with all your hard work. How did you get told about it? Tell me all the details, this is great news.”
This is how we’d like to think we’d respond, but there are the less interested and much more lame responses that sneak in, such as these:
“Ok. Tell me about it after the news has finished.”
“Will the kids and I get to see even less of you then?”
“Well, you have been there long enough.”
“Oh no, are you sure you can cope with the extra responsibility?”
Hahaha… These seem funny as we read them, yet they are the kind of things that are often said in relationships… Especially if the relationship is auto-piloting itself…
So it seems natural to recommend that all people in relationships should switch off old responses and start responding in a more active-constructive manner, doesn’t it?
At the initial outset, that may sound easy to do… Yet I think you’d be surprised at how challenging that can be for the majority.
I offer up this challenege to you… Use active-constructive responding for a week, not just with your partner, also with the people you encounter in your life — family, friends, colleagues and strangers… I am guessing you might find it fairly challenging at times, and even tough to remember to keep doing…
One of the obstacles people seem to have with active-constructive responding is not wanting the people close to us to get their hopes up only to be disappointed, to get carried away with themselves, or to somehow encounter problems or get in trouble.
For example, two years ago when I told my family and friends that I was going to deliver an NLP training in Sudan, most of them expressed concerns about kidnapping, the war that had been going on, disease (and vaccinations), weather (the sand storms are crazy over there), the quality of the roads, and problems with the translator facilities. All of these concerns were rightly mentioned I suppose, though they may well have been expressed after an initial active-constructive response… I was one of very few trainers who get to encounter such a challenge and experience after all.
So that brings us on to the classic and well documented way to make it easier to be enthusiastic and engaged… As Tony Robbins says in his book “Unlimited Power” and as quoted in a variety of other places… When someone offers up some great news, choose to omit the word ‘but’ from your reaction.
Think about using the word’and’ or just not using ‘but’ at all… It makes such a difference… Plus, the conscious awareness that you subsequently have in your communication is going to enhance relationships…
I’d love to hear from anyone that can spend an entire day or an entire week being genuinely and diligently engaged, enthusiastic and encouraging in their responses to people’s good news… Have a wonderful day 🙂