Science shows there are psychological benefits from specifically training our brain to notice and reflect on what’s good. This also applies in our connections with others.
We may think being there for someone when things are going wrong is the most important factor in our close relationships. Turns out it’s not top of the list.
Studies show what predicts the highest quality relationships amongst couples was how their partner responded to good news! This extends to other relationships too.
It turns out there are different, often habitual, ways we respond when someone shares something good.
For example, imagine your partner, a friend or family member says ‘I went out for a great lunch today” – how would you usually respond?
a) That’s great. I’m pleased for you. Now can we talk about…. [e.g. …our plans for the weekend/who is picking up the kids/booking those tickets? Insert as appropriate!]
b) Now you mention it, I had a fantastic lunch too, I discovered a really great new local restaurant, we must try it together sometime…
c) Mmmm…weren’t you saying last week that you really wanted to lose weight…
d) That sounds nice. Where did you go? What did you eat? What did you most enjoy about it?
Which response is most typical of you? Does it vary based on who you are talking to? Which response do you think is most positive for the other person and for that relationship?
Research shows only one of these responses, the last one (d), actively nurtures the connection. The other answers are at best passive or can be actively detrimental, eating away at the relationship over time.
By asking a few open, constructive, and curious questions in response to hearing someone’s good news and listening to their answers leads to a range of benefits:
- Helps that person feel you are interested in them and what matters to them.
Helps you understand more about them and what they specifically enjoy and potentially gives you a wide basis for connection.
Gives them the opportunity to reflect on and emotionally benefit from their positive moment.
Amplifies the physiological and psychological wellbeing boost for you both.
Why not try responding with some active open and curious questions next time someone shares something good with you? Give it a go at home, with loved ones on Zoom or WhatsApp, and in the office. See what you notice about the reactions of the other person you are connecting with.