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One Secret of Happiness: Cultivating the “Active Constructive Response”

way to go, good job, well done, you're the man, thumbs up, you rock - a set of isolated sticky notes

When we receive news or respond to a comment or compliment, we have a choice of 4 styles of response. Imagine a 4-square grid with “Active” and “Passive” along the top and “Constructive” and “Destructive” along the side.

Active/Constructive:

Enthusiastic, Authentic, Fully Engaged, Response Rapport, Non-Verbal Cues: Eye Contact, Wide Smile, Appropriate Supportive Touch

“Terrific! You must be so proud and rightly so! I am happy for you!”: Delivered with a genuine smile, from the heart; response often elaborates, adds in a positive way, looks for the good, shows interest, ask relevant questions, builds up other person, expresses bona fide excitement; contains sincere compliments, legitimate praise

Passive/Constructive:

Low Energy, Delayed Response, Flat, Non-Verbal Cues: Little to No Active Emotional Expression, Dead Pan Face

“Oh…how nice for you.”: Delivered without enthusiasm, commitment, no emotional involvement, perfunctory, going through motions

Active/Destructive:

Dismissive, Demeaning, Display of Negative Non-Verbal Cues: Frowning, Furrowed Brow

“A promotion? You must have really brownnosed your boss. Guess you will be working longer hours too.”: Takes the air out of their sails, looks for the negative

Passive/Destructive:

Changes Subject, Ignores Speaker, Turns Focus Inward, Non-Verbal Cues: Shrug of Shoulders, Eye Contact Avoidance, Turning Away, Crossing Arms

“Really? Well, something like that happened to me too but more interesting.” Shows no regard for others feeling, disdainful, even contemptuous, belittles, debases, detracts, degrades

An Active, Constructive Response builds the relationship, creates a positive vibe:

In Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Martin Seligman recounts how Shelly Gable of the University of California at Santa Barbara “has shown that how you celebrate is more predictive of a strong relationship than how you fight. When people share with you a victory, or any positive experiences they have had, how you respond can either strengthen the relationship or undermine it. Research shows that when you respond actively (showing interest and asking questions) and constructively (building up the other’s points), it can significantly enhance the quality of your relationship.”

We can reflexively give non-positive responses: Every time we turn away a compliment, we more push away the giver than display modesty. A simple “Thank you” will suffice, with a “Kind of you to notice” added if you wish. Also, I’ve noticed I have a tendency (socially dysfunctional trait left over from law school?) to point out the other side, often when it is not necessary or productive. I’m learning to simply “accentuate the positive” and focus on giving an Active Constructive Response from my heart.

 Closing Quotes:

“Words are powerful. Whispering words of wisdom can empower, encourage, uplift and help move someone forward. Choose kind words to heal one’s spirit.” – Ritu Ghatourey

“What we say matters. The unkind things we communicate can soil the best of relationships; even with the deepest of regrets.” – Jason Versey

“Kind words are short and easy to speak; but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

“Positive and kind words can empower, encourage, motivate and help move someone towards their goals. Always choose words that can heal not destroy.” – Anurag Prakash

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

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