Do you recognise any of these types of people? Whisper it…could any of them, be you?
You’re especially excited about a big achievement and you’re looking forward to sharing your news with a friend/partner/relative. As soon as you tell them they say, “Ah, but did you hear about so and so’s news?” Your moment is gone. Bubble burst.
“I’ve just got a new job, I’m over the moon!” only to be met with, “That sounds really stressful. Do you think you’re up to it? You’ve struggled with that before. I know someone who had that job and they hated it…”
These types of replies can seriously zap your energy, nibble away at your self-esteem and damage relationships. In positive psychology, research shows that it isn’t just how we communicate to each other in the bad times that makes a difference to a friendship, but how we respond to the good news too.
Psychologist, Shelly Gable and her team put together a framework showing the ways we can respond to people’s news. They came up with four distinct ways. Being able to recognise these can make a huge difference to the quality of your relationships and your well-being. Especially if you’re the one doing the responding!
There’s passive constructive responding also known as ‘the conversation killer’. The person who may give a casual congratulations with no eye contact, little interest and understated support.
You: Today was an amazing day, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Partner: (not looking away from TV) Right, sounds good.
Passive destructive responding involves a person turning good news into a conversation about themselves. The ‘conversation hijacker’ might reply, “Oh, just wait until you hear about my news…first I…” They will completely ignore what is being discussed.
Active destructive responding is the most negative and is the work of ‘the joy thief’. This is the person who manages to pour negativity all over your happy news. They will dismiss what you are saying and purely see the downsides.
These three ways of responding to good news can be soul-destroying if you find yourself on the receiving end of them. Indeed, they don’t do much for your happiness if you are the one delivering them either.
So how best to respond? The most powerful way to respond to news in order to help relationships flourish, is to listen with genuine interest, keep eye contact and ask questions which will help the person to relive the experience. This is active constructive responding and helps you to become a ‘joy multiplier’.
Do you recognise any of these styles of response in yourself? If we’re honest, how often do we genuinely listen and put all our effort into sharing another person’s joy? It takes practice and can feel a little odd at first but give it a go with those around you and see what happens.