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Even better relationships

1 Jan

“I’ve got some good news!”

How do you respond when people share their good news with you? 

Researchers (Gable, Reis, Impett, & Asher, 2004) have found there’s a really effective way to respond.  It’s called “Active Constructive” – and essentially it means that you actively make constructive comments.

I’ve seen the following example used in a workshop – and remember it’s the top left box of “Active and Constructive” that works.  Yes really, the passive and constructive doesn’t work – you may think you’re being supportive – but research shows that these comments are not enough – so us silent types better be more enthusiastic.



What’s in it for you?

Of course there are the people in your life for whom you’re delighted to share in their good news – and there doesn’t have to be anything in it for you!

But I thought you might like to know that the research shows that this “active and constructive” communication is positively associated with better relationship quality.  In academic speak the active and constructive responses were positively correlated with commitment, satisfaction intimacy, and for men trust. 


Take the approach further

In positive psychology there is an intervention known as savouring, where you really allow yourself to enjoy the experience.  Where it’s an appropriate situation, you can facilitate the person with the good news just to remember and re-experience the situation.  The research also shows that more likely to engrave the experience on their memory.

“I’m so pleased you had a great evening, tell me about it, what was the best bit?”



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. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.2.228

Authentic disclosure of emotions

8 Dec

Sometimes I think the expectation of positive psychology is that only positive emotions are “good”.  Personally I believe in the importance of balance.  Previously I’ve blogged on the importance of authentic emotions.  I feel that all emotions have their place.  Difficulties can arise when an individual doesn’t have authentic emotions, or when an individual gets stuck in a particular pattern of emotions. 

Continued expression of the more negative emotions may be an unhelpful pattern of behaviour with some people.  You know, you’ve met them.  They only have moans and complaints about the world and other people. 

However there are occasions when expressing vulnerability, or expressing a need can be a way of building relationship as demonstrated by some research by (Graham, Huang, Clark, & Helgeson, 2008).

Self disclosure, i.e. saying stuff about yourself seems to lead to increased intimacy – and self disclosure of emotion was shown to be a better predictor of intimacy than self disclosing facts. 

The research consisted of four separate studies, from self report to behavioual observation.  The research showed that when people shared their emotion it had positive effects on relationships. 

So, how do you do share your vulnerability?  It sounds simple, but it’s essentially by connecting to and saying how you feel.  Gosh, I feel slightly nervous that that might sound a bit over-simplistic. 

For some people who have beliefs that they “must never show chinks in their armour” or must “never express their weaknesses” this probably seems “out there”.  However in an organisation, when the importance of building trust often cited as a key organisational success factor, then sharing emotions can be one way to do it.  Emotions do have to be genuine, and you have to be sincere in the sharing. 


I’d be interested in your experiences in sharing your emotions – what was the situation?  What was the outcome?



Graham, S. M., Huang, J. Y., Clark, M. S., & Helgeson, V. S. (2008). The Positives of Negative Emotions: Willingness to Express Negative Emotions Promotes Relationships. [Article]. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(3), 394-406. doi: 10.1177/0146167207311281


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