09 Mar Celebrating Successes Creates Better Working Relationships
Can you remember a time that you shared some good news with a friend or colleague? How did they respond? Did you get an, “oh, that’s nice”, or a low energy, “good for you”? Or were they genuinely happy with you, asking questions and helping you savor the good news?
According to research by Shelley Gable at the University of Southern California at Berkeley, the manner in which people respond to hearing of a colleague’s good news is a big factor in the quality of that relationship. That’s a bit surprising, as it seems that the way bad news is responded to would be a big deal. When someone comes to you with bad news, it is important to be supportive and understanding. That’s true, but when it comes to strengthening a relationship, the way good news is responded to is an even bigger factor.
Dr. Gable created a framework about the four ways people respond to good news:
How does this work?
Let’s say a colleague shares with you the news that they received a promotion. Here are four examples of how you can respond:
Passive And Constructive
A passive and constructive reaction is a bit positive, but it’s usually very short and unsupportive. While the listener is happy for the speaker, they don’t seek out more information or create an opportunity to share in the good news. A common passive constructive response is, “oh, that’s nice.” It’s not the absolute worst way to respond, but it sure doesn’t strengthen the relationship.
Active And Destructive
An active destructive response squashes the event by focusing on the negative or even putting down the speaker. That focus on the negative side of the good news can really suck the joy out of the situation. An active destructive response to news of a job promotion might be, “a promotion?! You’re already so stressed out – how are you possibly going to manage all that extra responsibility? I bet your kids are going to hate you for being at the office so much.”
The ironic thing is that the active destructive response is often given with the best intentions. You’ve probably heard that kind of response by some well-meaning person (or delivered one yourself). They’re trying to look out for your best interests. While that’s admirable, timing is critical. When someone shares good news with you, don’t jump to the negatives right away. Focus on the positives for now, then bring up the potential downsides in a later conversation.
Passive And Destructive
The third way to respond to good news is the passive destructive response. The listener doesn’t acknowledge the event at all. They’ll change the subject and might even shift the focus of the conversation to themself. Upon hearing news of a promotion, a passive destructive response might sound like this, “huh, you’ll never guess what happened to me on my way to work!” Of the four types of responses, the passive destructive does the most damage to a relationship.
Active And Constructive
Finally, the Active Constructive Response (ACR) is to not simply acknowledge the good news, but to actually share in someone else’s happy event. I’m not just happy for you, I’m happy with you. The goal of ACR is to be fully present with the person and their good news by being authentically interested, curious and proud of them.
After a genuine exclamation of excitement and pride (“Wow! That’s awesome! I knew you could do it!”), you might ask questions to draw out more details like, “When did you find out? How are you going to celebrate? Have you told your kids yet?”
Those follow up questions help you both savor the good news, soaking up as much positivity as possible.
Of the four responses, ACR is the only one that will strengthen the relationship. All the other responses actually cause harm.
Active Constructive Response is the Most Effective Way to Respond to Good News
ACR gives both the person sharing the good news and the person responding a positive outcome. ACR leads to a boost in the savoring of the event. That savoring then starts an upward spiral of positive emotions, not only for the person with the good news, but for everyone involved.
In a study done by Sonja Lyubomirsky researchers found that people who practiced ACR 3 times a day for a week:
- Increased their happiness
- Decreased depressive symptoms
- Conversely, those who are silently supportive or active destructive have less close, less intimate and less trusting relationships.
Practicing Active Constructive Response
Start noticing how you and others respond to good news. When you catch yourself reacting in one of the other responses, switch immediately to ACR by becoming genuinely enthusiastic and supportive. Ask the speaker to share more about their good news by saying, ‘tell me more.’
Make time regularly, such as the beginning team meetings, or even just as you are speaking with colleagues to ask them about what’s going well for them and help them celebrate in their professional and personal wins.
ACR Creates Better Relationships
This small shift in how you respond to good news can have a profound impact. By genuinely sharing in others’ good news, you create a relationship that has more meaningful conversations, trust, and positivity.
Of course, authenticity is key. For ACR to really work, you have to mean it. It’s not just the words you use, you need to show your excitement with a genuine smile and perhaps a pat on the back or high five (if that’s your jam.)
Try it for yourself. I’d love to hear how it affects your life and relationships! Comment below, follow me on Instagram or tweet me @dantrommater.