The Voices of Positive Voices

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Turning Good News into a Relationship Boost

We all know that when someone really listens to us, it can make us feel great and often closer to that person. There are many articles that help us understand and consider our responses in times of strife and the impact on our relationships. But, did you know that the way you respond during another’s good news can have a large impact on your relationships as well? It’s true.

You can actually build or undermine relationships with your responses to good news. Dr. Shelly Gable, researcher at UCLA, studied how people respond to good news and its impact. She found their responses are actually more predictive of strong relationships than how you argue and identified four ways a person can respond to another when hearing their good news.

Active Construct Responding (ACR)

One way you can express listening and communication style is by Active Constructive Responding (ACR), where you can respond to another’s good news with enthusiasm and express your involvement. When we share good news, how others respond really matters and can increase our positive emotion and our satisfaction in life as well as increase our belongingness.

Let’s Try an Example

Imagine your significant other comes home and tells you, “Guess what? I finally got the promotion!” You can respond one of four ways:

  1. Active Constructive (enthusiastically): “Wow! That’s great news. Are you excited?”
  2. Active Destructive (quashing the event): “Boy! That’s going to mean more stress. I don’t envy you!”
  3. Passive Constructive (understated support): “That’s nice.”
  4. Passive Destructive (ignoring the event): “Really? I had the same thing happen when…”


Research shows that of the four ways to respond to good news, only ACR builds relationships

Responding actively and constructively can build resources for our relationships. In fact, with ACR, both you and your loved one feel better. ACR can even be thought of as savoring with another. By responding actively and constructively to the good news of another, it shows that we understand and care. Asking open-ended questions can extend the opportunity for your loved one to dig deeper and savor the experience behind his good tidings. While enjoyable in the moment, ACR has longer-term benefits including building trust, intimacy and satisfaction in relationships. ACR can even transform relationships.

How Do You Respond to Others?

So, looking over the table above, do you see yourself in any of these responses? Are there some styles you tend to use in different contexts or with different people? Perhaps you use one with your children and another with your best friend?

So next time your spouse tells you about a success at work, your best friend tells you about the trip they are going to take or your child shares that he finally nailed that Karate move, look them in the eye and celebrate their win with them. Extend their glee with a few probing questions (“What was the best part?” or “What led up to that?”). In the end, this habit will be a win for your love and a boost for your relationship.


Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(5), 904-917.

Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E., & 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.

Gottman, J. M. & DeClaire, J. (2002). The relationship cure. New York, NY: Random House

Langston, C. A. (1994). Capitalizing on and coping with daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1112–1125.

Reivich, K. J., Seligman, M. E. P., & McBride, S. (2011). Master resilience training in the U.S. Army. American Psychologist, 66(1), 25-34.

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press


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