"The Man, The Mission, The Passion" Husband, Father, Attorney, CPA, Steward Leader, Entrepreneur, MBA, Author, Builder, HBS OPM 25 Class, Mentor, Teacher

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.


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


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


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


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

Avoiding “Dumsor” Motivation/Energy Levels


Dumsor* (doom-sore) is a Ghanaian phrase used in reference to the frequent power outages and rolling blackouts that are epidemic to the country; it translates loosely as “off-and-on”. Upon reading the term, I immediately thought, “How do we as individuals, how can I, avoid energy or motivation blackouts/outages?”

How can I stay my best self always? Or at least longer for starters? (Baby steps first if necessary, but onward, forward, upward always!)

Several ways came to mind:

– Eliminate negative thinking (BIG energy drain); stay positive in my focus/thoughts, surround myself with positive people.

– Return Frequently/Daily to a Source of Inspiration. At home, my reading chair is surrounded by uplifting literature; most mornings I pick up a tome and open it randomly, read until I find an “ace I can keep” for the day.

Have a plan for the day, week, month, year, and more; targets, deadlines, and dreams that pull you forward, spur you onward. Even something as small as the sense of satisfaction derived from crossing the last thing off your “to-do” list will help you find the energy you need.

Closing Quotes

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962; America’s longest serving 1st Lady

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins, ‘Unlimited Power’, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not of your frustrations but of your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with how you tried and failed but with what it is still possible for you.” – Pope John XXIII

*The term is derived from two separate words from the Asante Twi, the Akuapem Twi or Fante dialects of the Akan language: dum (to turn off or quench) and sɔ (to turn on or to make light), so the term roughly translates as “off-and-on”. The frequent Ghanaian blackouts are caused by a power supply shortage; generating capacity is currently 400-600 megawatts less than Ghana needs thus load is shed via rolling blackouts. As of 2015, the dumsor schedule went from 24 hours with light and 12 without to 12 hours with light and 24 without. The long blackouts contrast with other countries, where blackouts roll rapidly so that no residential area is without power for more than one hour at a time. – Wikipedia

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

How to Access Your Best Self?


We don’t always do as well as we know. The challenges of the day are often many; life gives us pop quizzes at the most inopportune moments, so how can we be our “best self” more often?

I find affirmations to be a wonderful way to remind myself of my core values, to center and calm myself, to focus and direct my energies. For me the key is endless repetition that drives them DEEP into my consciousness, creates grooves in my memory, makes them habitual and easy to recall in the moment of decision. I often repeat them to myself, review them, on the morning drive into work (aka the play that pays).

Also, timeless truths can be spoken in many different ways; there is something about the phrasing of my chosen affirmations that appeals to me personally, other wordings might resonate better with you.  For instance, “I am a joyful breeze” is a real pattern interrupt for me; it conjures up a lovely visualization in my mind AND it is so at odds with my driven personality that it makes me smile and think “Ok, I’ve got a way to go here, how can I chill a bit and at least take a step on that journey?”

NSC’s Fave Centering, Calming Affirmations

“Peace Like a Mighty River Flows through me, Calming me, Soothing me, Nourishing me.”
“I Radiate Love and Positive Energy.”
“I carry the Sun in my Pocket.”
“I Nourish, Support, and Praise ALL that I meet.”
“I Find Love and Support Everywhere I Go.”
“I Have a Healthy Relationship with food, I eat Slowly, Savoring each and every bite.”
“I will judge Nothing that occurs today.”
“I will release all thoughts that hurt.”
“I am responsible for all that I see.”
“All That I Give to Others, I Give to Myself.”
“Forgiveness offers me ALL that I want!”
“I am a Joyful Breeze.”
“I live Serenely in the Present Moment.”
“I Greet the Present Moment Fully, I Greet it as a Friend.”
“I have the Habit of Happiness and An Attitude of Gratitude.”

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