A Happy Habit

     How do you respond when someone shares good news with you? Your response might predict the longevity and happiness of your relationship.

     At The Habits of Happy People, a recent conference presented by Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D, I gathered armfuls of information on what makes us happy. The clinician in me craves evidence-based practices to share with my clients, students and friends. Dr. Kurtz delivered on this front in spades. Here’s one nugget of research that’s easily digestible and fun to try out.

     There’s a nice fat body of research that focuses on how to handle negative emotions in relationships (jealousy, conflict, and criticism, etc.), but what about the way we deal with our significant others’ successes? Shelly Gable was curious. In her article, Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006, Vol. 91, No. 5, 904–917) she shares her findings.

     Let’s take this example: Your partner bursts through the door and announces, “I got the job!” There are four ways you can respond to someone’s sharing of good news:

1) Passive-Destructive – “So, did you remember to pick up the groceries on the way home?”

2) Active-Destructive – “I guess we’ll have to change school districts and break our daughter’s heart.”

3) Passive-Constructive – “Good. You earned it.”

4) Active-Constructive – “That is awesome news! You nailed it! I knew you could do it! Tell me what happened! I am so proud of you! Let’s go out and celebrate!”

     Only #4, the Active-Constructive, response will build your relationship.

     The ability to celebrate a partner’s good news corresponds not only to immediate enhancement of the relationship, but also predicts relationship wellness and break-up two months later, independent of how couples handle negative emotions.

     Try it. Next time you hear some good news from a loved one, amp up the volume. Celebrate, and bask in the happy glow that you’ve created for both of you!