Strengthen your relationship: “How to respond to good news”

Strengthen your relationship: “How to respond to good news”

Imagine the following scenario:

You’ve just been promoted at work and are all excited to come home and tell your partner about the good news.relationship strength and communication

Now imagine your partner responding in each of the following ways:

  1. That is wonderful news! Congratulations! Let’s grab a coffee and you can tell me all about it.
  2. Oh yeah, that’s good for you.
  3. Okay, so what are we having for dinner? You knew my car is getting serviced and I can’t go to the shops without it! They will be closing soon and I’ve already been waiting for 2 hours for you to come back home!
  4. Are you sure that is a good idea going ahead with this promotion? Don’t you think you’ve got enough on your plate already? Are you sure you can do this?

How did each of these reactions make you feel? And how did each of these reactions make you feel about your partner? Which one do you think would strengthen your relationship and which one might even weaken it?

Now take it a step further and think about the last time your partner told you about some good news they received. How did you respond? Did you feel your way of responding strengthened your relationship?

We often seem to think that listening and responding to someone who has just received bad news, is in crisis or is just upset with life in general is how we strengthen our relationships with each other but what about all the good news that happens every day?

Good news has a positive effect on our wellbeing and our relationships. Research has shown that nurturing positive relationships is one of the most powerful and consistent predictors of good mental and physical health. People with high quality social connections experience more positive emotions and meaning in life.

The manner in which you respond when others share triumph with you directly can build or undermine your relationships.  Research into couples and intimate relationships suggests that supporting partners when good things happen is as important in building a relationship as supporting when bad things happen .

Researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues found that people generally respond to good news in one of four ways. Of these, responding in ways that are active and constructive is the most beneficial way to respond in order to build & strengthen a relationship .

DestructiveIgnoring the event changing focus to self/ change subjectNonverbal: little to no eye contact, turning away, leaving the roomExample: “Listen to what happened to me.” or “What’s for dinner?”Quashing the eventNonverbal: display of negative emotions e.g. furrowed brow, frowningExample: “That means more stress. Are you sure you want to do that? I don’t envy you.”
ConstructiveQuiet low energy supportNonverbal: little to no active emotional expressionExample: “That’s nice.”Enthusiastic support, asking for detailsNonverbal: eye contact, display positive emotionsExample: “That’s great news. Tell me more!”

So how can you improve your Active Constructive Responding and become a person, people and especially your partner want to share good news with?

  1. Take the time to listen when good things happen to people around you.
  2. Practice mindfulness and be in the moment when communicating.
  3. Avoid early jump ins.
  4. Be genuine and authentic.
  5. Reflect sincere congratulations and empathetic support.
  6. Ask questions. Give people the chance to relive the experience in detail.
  7. Ask about things that are important to them.

If you find yourself responding more often in a passive or destructive way, breaking this habit can be difficult. To begin, try to make only active and constructive responses for one full day. Over time, it will become natural to respond actively and constructively to others’ good news. Remember to make eye contact, smile, and use affirmative nonverbal communication. By making these positive responses, you will make your partner feel good and will feel genuinely excited about his/her successes.

If you feel you need assistance to strengthen your relationship you may like to seek assistance from a professional such as a relationship counsellor. To discuss your situation or find out more about relationship counselling or individual counselling services in Perth, please contact us.

 Article Title: Strengthen your relationship: “How to respond to good news”
Article By: Vision Counselling and Psychology, Perth Western Australia
Web Address:
Published: 26/09/2014
[1] Mind 360. Mindfulness & Wellbeing. Active Constructive Responding. Available at:,d.dGc Accessed: 1.8.2014
[2] Active and Constructive Responding. Available at: Accessed: 1.8.2014
[3] What is Active and Constructive Responding?: Accessed 1.8.2014
Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club

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