“Build Me Up, Buttercup”: How to Respond to Good News
Have you ever bounded into a room thrilled to tell someone good news you just received, only to have it put down, ignored, or generally dismissed? You were probably the recipient of an unwittingly damaging response style.
Active Constructive Responding (ACR) teaches a way of replying to a friend, partner, or family member’s happiness in a manner that builds up the relationship. It shows you’re on the same team, and lets them fully savor and relish in that joy together—which for us pro-social animals is the best way to experience joy!
Here are the four possible ways of responding to someone’s good news:
1. Active Constructive is the best way to respond, as it shows your excitement and pride in the other person: meeting their enthusiasm with your own, asking them questions about their experience, and being present with them using your body language and eye contact.
2. Active Destructive acknowledges what the other person is saying (hence it’s “active”), but finding something critical to say about the event. You take a person down a notch by poking holes in their good news; for example, bringing up how much stress they’ll have in their new job rather than just celebrating the success with them first and foremost.
3. Passive Constructive isn’t putting someone down, but it is barely acknowledging their good news. The passive constructive responder potentially feels jealous, as if fully celebrating another’s wins negates their own. This style is lacking in empathy.
4. Passive Destructive happens when you turn someone else’s good news into something about yourself; maybe you change the subject or completely ignore the other person. This style also shows a lack of empathy, and may be seen in narcissistic individuals.
If we look at the world through a lens of abundance rather than scarcity, we see that there’s enough good stuff to go around, so celebrating the success of others only adds to the collective happiness of our world. There will come a time when all of us will have reasons to toot our own horn. When it’s someone else’s turn to take that limelight, and we strive to respond to them in an active, constructive way, we model for everyone how we would like to be responded to as well.
Mental Health Counselor Intern