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Action 26

Ask others about the things that have gone well

Responding with genuine interest and enthusiasm when good things happen to the people around us does wonders for our connections with others - and it does us good too!

Why do it?

Confiding in each other is an important feature of close relationships. Sharing our thoughts and feelings about things that happen to us is an important part of this.

Psychologists have recently discovered that how we respond to people when they share good news about the things that happen to them can be even more important for our relationships than how we react when things go wrong for them. Equally, how our partner, friend or family member responds to our good news helps us feel understood and cared for.

When we respond to good news with interest and enthusiasm - by asking questions and helping our partner re-live the experience - they will feel more intimacy and trust, be more satisfied with the relationship and be more likely to engaged in fun and relaxing activities.

Studies have also shown that couples who felt their partners were responsive in this way, experienced fewer break-ups over time.

Where to start

Step 1: Think

When your partner or a close friend tells you about something good that happened to them how do you normally respond? (If you're not sure why not ask them!). Do you:

  1. Say something like "that's great" and then move on to the next topic
  2. Point out the potential issues or problems
  3. Carry on with what you are doing or change the subject
  4. Say something like "that's great" and then ask them all about it - for example "how did you manage that?" or "so what's going to happen next?"

Answer 4 is known as 'active-constructive' responding and has the most positive impact on our relationships. It is 'active' as we are asking about the event and 'constructive' as it focuses on what went well.

Step 2: Act

Next time someone shares their good news - whether big or small - try responding actively and constructively. Be genuinely enthusiastic and show interest by asking a couple of questions. Here are some examples you could try:

  • "Well done! What led up to that happening?"
  • "Great. Tell me all about it. Who was involved? When did it happen? What did they say?"
  • "That's fantastic, I'm so pleased for you. Talk me through it from the start. What did you do that helped it turn out so well?"

[1] Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G., & 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, 904-917.


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Together we're stronger

Having a network of social connections or high levels of social support has been shown to increase our immunity to infection, lower our risk of heart disease and reduce mental decline as we get older.

Not having close personal ties has been shown to pose significant risks for our health.

Make time for the people that matter

"Life's short and we never have enough time for the hearts of those who travel the way with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind"

Henri-Frederic Amiel