Scientifically Proven Relationship Advice

And it all starts with how you respond to pie…

You might think that the way in which you react to someone’s negative event will determine the quality of your relationship over time, however it has been found that reactions to positive events (accomplishments, good news), are of even greater importance.

Gable, Gonzaga, and Strachman (2007) explain that there are four ways that we can respond to someone’s positive news. Let’s relate the accomplishment to pie, shall we?

Scene: Person A rushes into the room yelling: “I just won a pie eating competition!!!”, how do you, (Person B) respond?

1. Active-Constructive – Praise. Rejoice. Expand. Ask questions.
Person B: “That’s awesome! All that hard work expanding your stomach has finally paid off! When’s your next competition? I’d love to be there to cheer you on!

2.Passive-Constructive – Unenthusiastic praise.
Person B [smiles]: “That’s nice, dear.”

3. Active-Destructive – demeaning the accomplishment
Person B: “Wow, are you sure you want that title? You must have ingested a million calories, do you think you’ll get fat?”

4. Passive-Destructive – Completely passes over the accomplishment and focuses attention on themselves or other things
Person B: “I like pie. Did I ever tell you of the time that I ate a lot of pie? Man, it’s such an intense story…” [continues on with story]

You can probably guess that the active-constructive response is the best one to engage in, and is related to higher relationship satisfaction.

So the next time your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/friend says “I won a pie eating competition!!!”, “I created a cure for cancer!!!”, or “I just climbed Mt Everest, and I’m finally backkkk!!!”, you now have scientific information that has been statistically proven to assist you in refraining from saying a mere “That’s nice.”

How do you react when someone tells you good news? Do you always engage in one type? Or do you tend to act differently depending on the person relaying the news?

Each one of us in my class had to figure this out. So last week as part of our positive psychology challenge, we had to evaluate our reactions and discuss situations in which we engage in active-constructive ways of responding.

The following are some of my observations. And keep in mind, this is all very subjective. It would be interesting to see how others perceive the way in which I interact with them. So, if you want to weigh in, go for it!

I think I genuinely rejoice in others accomplishments.

One of our housemates came home with some pretty exciting news this week so each one of us in the house took turns rejoicing in her accomplishment and showered her with questions of genuine interest.

Sometimes however, you must make sure that your enthusiasm does not come across as fake and sarcastic. If you become more excited then the person telling you the news, it can get awkward. So I think a good gauge is to match the other person’s level of excitement.

BUT this is totally different in other situations. I noticed this while at work (I’m a support worker for individuals with developmental disabilities). This past weekend, one of the guys informed me that he had just learned how to make tea this week. He was beaming with pride and went on to show me all the types of teas he had made. I had absolutely no trouble at all letting him know how proud I was of him as well as tell him how capable I know he is in learning new things. And I felt as though this was an appropriate situation where I could over exaggerate my enthusiasm and it wouldn’t be interpreted as fake. He doesn’t always have the highest self-esteem, so although he was excited for himself, he also needed to hear it from others. I also noticed that after praising him, he felt more accomplished and sure of himself.
And with that, we moved on to learning how to make hot chocolate!

With his newfound confidence in the kitchen, pretty soon he’ll be baking pie in no time…

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