Good News (About Good News)
Reap resounding rewards when sharing and learning about positive happenings.
Erica was thrilled when her literary agent told her that her book had been acquired by a major publishing house. She could hardly wait to tell her husband Matt. So she didn’t wait; Erica invited Matt to lunch and started the conversation something like this, “I’m proud to be the bearer of great news…”
When things go right: Coping with success.
When we, like Erica, experience good fortune, our general tendency is to share our good news with those we are close to in life: family, friends, co-workers. The good times are important, and not just according to oral traditions like wedding vows, “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad …” or song lyrics such as “Let the good times roll.” Recent research suggests that sharing good news, which psychologists call capitalizing on positive events, can enhance relationships and overall well-being beyond the positive event itself. However, these effects depend on the response of the person with whom the good news is shared.
Consider Matt’s enthusiastic and encouraging response to Erica’s news, “Congratulations on getting your book published! That is terrific! I’m proud of you, Erica. How does it feel that your hard work and talent have been recognized?”
Responding to good news by showing genuine enthusiasm and support, asking meaningful questions, making eye contact and displaying positive regard is what psychologists call active-constructive responding. When the bearer of good news perceives their partners’ response to their good news as active-constructive, they report feeling understood, cared for and validated. Thus, it is no surprise the research shows that active-constructive responding enhances the trust, commitment, satisfaction and intimacy in relationships. In fact, how we respond to good news may be more closely tied to a relationship’s success than how we respond to bad news.
For Erica, receiving an active-constructive response may boost her overall well-being and positive feelings beyond the event itself. In other words, Erica may experience more joy from Matt’s response than from the news of her book being published.
Capitalizing on positive events benefits the recipients of good news, too. Matt benefits because his relationship with Erica becomes stronger, and being part of Erica’s joy and success can boost his own well-being. Given Matt’s supportive response, Erica will likely share good news with him again in the future, putting their relationship in an upward spiral. Perhaps the best news of all, couples who use active-constructive responding tend to have more fun and are more likely to stay together. How’s that for good news?
What if Matt had responded differently? Let’s suppose Matt responded, “Do you realize you’ll have a book tour, which means you’ll be traveling for months?” or “That’s great, but it doesn’t mean anyone will actually buy your book.” Those comments are destructive and can crush the joy of the moment and the positive feelings produced by the positive event itself. Even worse, it can harm Erica’s well-being and their overall relationship. Changing the topic of conversation like, “What do you want for dinner?” or giving understated support like, “Oh, that’s nice” also can be damaging. Thus, how we respond to positive events is crucial.
Do we really want to hear good news?
A friend recently challenged me on the importance of good news, given that bad news draws our attention more strongly than good news. Although she is right about our innate tendency to be drawn to the negative, there is evidence we want to share and receive good news. For example, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed which New York Times online articles were most likely to be e-mailed. Good news is most likely to go viral, especially articles with awe-inspiring content.
Consider the popularity of local good news segments on television, like Kathy Quinn’s Fox 4 News “Pay it Forward” segment. Kathy says, “‘Pay It Forward’ is one of the most popular regular franchises that we have at Fox 4. Since we started airing it, we receive hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and letters in response.”
Sharing our good news and responding to others’ good fortune in a supportive way is one of the simplest things we can do for our well-being and relationships. Although the focus of much of the research has been on romantic relationships, other relationships like parent-child relationships, family relationships and friendships can benefit, too.
So what are you waiting for? Let the good times roll!
The Benefits of Sharing Good News
• Prolongs positive feelings. When we retell our story we re-experience positive emotions (which have numerous mental and physical health benefits).
• Strengthens relationships. When we share
good news with others, we also share the message that the other person matters, which can strengthen trust, closeness and satisfaction in relationships. It can boost the recipient’s mood by letting them feel like they had a part in our success.
• Raises self-esteem and self-worth. We get to see that others are happy for our success, which is important for us, but also our relationships. Self-worth fuels commitment and security in relationships.
• Improving memory. Retelling our story solidifies it in our memory and creates new memory connections, making it easier to recall in the future. More importantly, we are more likely to remember good news shared with others than bad news shared with others.
When you have good news to share
• Tell your cheerleaders, not the naysayers. Share your news with people whom you expect will respond positively. If you expect someone will be jealous of your success, you may want to avoid sharing your news with them.
• Tell it often. Every time we retell our news, we experience more positivity (perhaps more than we did from the event itself).
• Tell it to many. The more people we share the good news with, the greater the benefits (i.e., the more the merrier).
• Tell it no matter how big or small it is. Good news comes in all sizes.
When someone shares good news with you, use active-constructive ingredients
• Give them your undivided attention.
• Make eye contact.
• Ask meaningful questions.
• Show your genuine enthusiasm and support.
• Avoid criticisms.
Finally, if all of this is too much to remember, consider my 7-year-old daughter’s response to good news … as she throws her arms above her head, she screams, “WAHOOO! I knew it! This is the best day ever!”