When people close to us—friends, family members, significant others—tell us about positive things that happened to them, these moments have the potential to make us feel significantly closer to one another—depending on how we respond. This activity offers tips for responding in a way that has been shown to nurture positive feelings on both sides of the relationship and to increase feelings of closeness and relationship satisfaction.
At least 5 minutes. Try to make time for this practice at least once per week.
Ask a friend, family member, colleague, romantic partner, or other acquaintance to tell you about a good thing that happened to them today. It does not matter what type of event or how important it was, as long as it was a positive thing that happened to them and they feel comfortable discussing it.
As they share, listen and try to respond in an “active-constructive” manner, meaning that you:
Many people, when they first hear about this exercise, worry that when they try to do it, their responses will sound phony or scripted. However, once they start, people report that it feels natural and easy to do.
One strategy is to pick a specific aspect of the event that resonates with you and begin by commenting on that: “You seem really happy about what your boss said—tell me more.” Or, “It must have been satisfying to do so well on something you worked so hard for.”
Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Social Support for Positive Events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 904-917.
During a laboratory-based interaction, romantic partners who responded to each other’s news of positive events in the active-constructive style described above reported greater relationship well-being and were less likely to have broken up two months later.
Hovasapian, A. & Levine, L. J. (2018). Keeping the magic alive: Social sharing of positive life experiences sustains happiness. Cognition and Emotion, 32(8), 1559-70.
Students experienced more positive feelings about a good grade when they shared it with someone and that person recognized how important it was.
The people close to us need our support when things go right, not just when they go wrong. Providing encouragement for another person’s positive event can not only increase the satisfaction they derive from that event, but it can also make them feel loved and cared about. Talking about a positive event together creates a shared positive experience that can enhance overall relationship satisfaction.
Adapted from Gable, S. (2012) Capitalizing on Positive Events. In J.J. Froh & A.C. Parks (Eds.), Activities for Teaching Positive Psychology: A Guide for Instructors. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.