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Active, Constructive Responding

“People will forget what you did. They will forget what you said. But they won’t forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

How do you usually respond when someone tells you about something good that happened to them?

Do you say “That’s great!” while hurrying on to your next meeting?
If so, you are missing out on an opportunity to build relationships.

Research shows that how we respond to others in good times is as important for building relationships as how we react to negative events.

Read on to find out more.

Celebrate the Positive

Communicating positive events increases our well-being. And when others respond enthusiastically to our news, we feel even better!

Last month we talked about the positivity tipping point. People who experience at least three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions are more likely to flourish.

Active, constructive responding is a great way to help others feel good and boost our own mood at the same time.

Here’s how it works.

Responding actively and constructively is more than just saying “that’s nice” when someone shares a positive event. It involves showing interest and asking questions to help the person relive their positive experience.

Imagine a colleague tells you his proposal was accepted by a new customer. An active and constructive response might be:

“That’s great! I know you put a lot of time into that proposal and it sure paid off. Did the customer say why you got the business?”

Try This At Work (and at Home)!

Then next time someone tells you about something good that happened to them, take extra time to respond actively and constructively (the slower, the better). Write down your response and also how they react to your response. Try this for a week. Research by Shelly Gable and colleagues shows that the result will be improved relationships and better moods.

Other Person’s Event: ____________________________________

My Response to Them: ___________________________________

Their Reaction:  ________________________________________

Professor Shelly Gable on the power of active, constructive responding in relationships:


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

Mark Milotich is a facilitator and coach with over 20 years' experience developing leadership excellence and managing change in global organizations. His clients include Aleris, Atmel, Barry Callebaut, Capco, Credit Suisse, Daimler TSS, Deutsche Post/DHL, Deutsche Telekom, HETA, localsearch, Microsoft, Orange, Pfizer, Phonak, Schlumberger, Software AG, Swisscom, Swissmem, SPX, Stäubli, UBS, UEFA, and Zurich Insurance Group. Mark is a founding partner of Claxus GmbH.

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