Pathways to Wellness

conversation • connection • commitment

Deepen relationships

A great way, maybe the most effective way of deepening relationships is to respond actively and constructively to another person's good news.  Usually we think about "being there" for someone else in times of need to support or encourage them, but we don't spend a lot of time thinking about how to respond to positive experiences, successes and good fortune.  But it’s just as important.  

Take a moment to think about how you respond when your partner's been nominated for a volunteer recognition award, your best friend has just gotten engaged, or your teenage son has got his learner’s permit.  Then read about active constructive responding or ACR.

ACR is about listening intently, and asking questions that encourage your spouse, friend, or child to talk about the good news, relive the experience and really enjoy the positive emotions.  It's about dropping what you are doing to give your full attention, and demonstrating interest, pride and curiousity.  When you respond authentically, your non-verbal behaviour will follow suite – eye contact, smiling and nodding all convey interest.

Let's give an example:  Your 12 year old comes home from school, and tells you her essay received the highest mark in the class.  An active, constructive response would go something like this.

You stop reading the newspaper, and reach out to your daughter.  You say, "I know how hard you worked on that essay, and it's really paid off.  How did you feel when you saw your mark?  What did your teacher say to you?  Tell me more.  Can I read your essay?  Let's make sure to share your good work with your grandmother." 

Responding actively and constructively takes practice – it's not second nature for most of us.  But fortunately it can be learned.  And your reward will be a stronger, deeper relationship.

Listen to psychologist Martin Seligman talk about how to enrich your relationship using active constructive responding.  He'll suggest an exercise that you can do to help you prepare for the next time you receive some good news from someone you care about.