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How You Respond to Good News Matters in Relationships


When good fortune knocks, our first response is often to contact significant others to share the news. Sharing of good news with others promotes well-being by enhancing positive emotions and life satisfaction (Gable et al., 2004). However, this also depends on how you actually respond to the good news. Gable and colleagues elaborate that people respond to their partner’s sharing of good news in four different ways. Below is an exercise to gauge what your partner’s response to your sharing of good news is (or what your response is being perceived by your partner) (Gable et al., 2004):

"Please take a moment to consider how your partner responds when you tell him or her about something good that has happened to you. For example, imagine that you come home and tell your partner about receiving a promotion at work, having a great conversation with a family member, getting a raise, winning a prize, or doing well on an exam at school or a project at work. Please consider to what extent your partner does the following things (bulleted items below) in response to your good fortune".

1. Active-Constructive Response:
  • My partner usually reacts to my good fortune enthusiastically 
  • I sometimes get the sense that my partner is even more happy and excited than I am 
  • My partner often asks a lot of questions and shows genuine concern about the good event 
2. Passive-Constructive Response:
  • My partner tries not to make a big deal out of it but is happy for me 
  • My partner is usually silently supportive of the good things that occur to me
  • My partner says little, but I know he/she is happy for me 
3. Active-destructive Response: 
  • My partner often finds a problem with it 
  • My partner reminds me that most good things have their bad aspects as well 
  • He/she points out the potential down sides of the good event 
4. Passive-Destructive:
  • Sometimes I get the impression that he/she doesn’t care much 
  • My partner doesn’t pay much attention to me 
  • My partner often seems disinterested 
This exercise will help you recognize your partner’s (or your) predominant responding style to good news. For a couple of weeks, you can also track your own responses to good news shared by someone close to you. Research shows that only active-constructive responses are associated with commitment, satisfaction, intimacy, and trust in a relationship (Gable et al., 2004). Even passive-constructive responses are not helpful in relationships. You can extend active-constructive responses to other people who share their good fortune with you – relatives, friends, and coworkers. Of course, use common sense when the news that is good to the person delivering is not exactly music to your ears. You obviously don’t want to respond with enthusiasm when your partner tells you that they have found someone else to marry!

To learn more about evidence-based self-management techniques that are proven to work for depression, check out Dr. Duggal's Author Page.


HARPREET S. DUGGAL, MD, FAPA 

REFERENCES:

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(2), 228-245.

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