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Who Do You Run To?©

By on May 2, 2008 – 10:42 am  21 Comments

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.

It was 1976. I was in the fifth grade. The fifty-yard dash record for Lake Bluff Elementary School in Shorewood, Wisconsin was set in the mid 1950s. I had a chance to break it. I walked past my classmates and stepped up to the starting line. I looked at my gym teacher, Mr. (Buddy) Wolf. He blew his whistle and I took off running. I pumped my legs and arms as fast as I could. 6.5 seconds later I leaned into the finish line and I heard the click of Mr. Wolf’s stop watch. I turned around just as fast as I could to hear Mr. Wolf say: “You just broke the school record!” My class burst into applause! I jogged back to everyone. My buddies slapped me on the back and punched me in the arm. I was in fifth grade heaven!

Then my thoughts turned to lunchtime. I wanted to get home to tell Mom, and call Dad at work. One period later the lunch bell rang. I sprinted out of the classroom, down the stairs, out the side door, and ran six blocks to my home. I opened the back door of the house, turned into the kitchen, and saw Mom plating up a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. I kissed Mom, and then I told her all about the race, the record, and my classmates cheering. She asked me to tell the whole story from start to finish, with every detail included. So, I acted out what happened. She clapped. We laughed. She hugged me. And then I called Dad and relived the whole experience. He was thrilled for me! It was one of the best days of my life.

Now, who do you run to in your life? Who helps you celebrate your achievements? Why do you run to these special people? Why are they the first on your list? What about these individuals attracts you to them? UCLA psychology researcher Shelly Gable, University of Rochester psychology researcher Harry Reis, and their colleagues discovered that there are four principle ways people respond to the good news of others, and only one of them makes a positive difference in a relationship.

  • Active and Constructively: They’re “enthusiastic,” they’re “almost more happy and excited than I am,” and “they ask lots of questions.”
  • Passive and Constructively: They try “not to make a big deal out of it, but are happy for me,” or they “say little, but I know they are happy for me.”
  • Active and Destructively: They “often find a problem with it,” or they “point out the potential downsides of the good event.”
  • Passive and Destructively: They “seem disinterested,” they don’t care much, or they don’t “pay much attention to me.”

Gable and Reis’s research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, uncovered that only people who respond actively and constructively to your good news have a measurably positive impact on your enthusiasm, joy and happiness in life. They further discovered that people who receive active and constructive feedback in close personal relationships report higher relationship well-being as indicated by measures of intimacy and marital satisfaction.

So, think about the people you love and care about. Do your children run to you with good news? Does your spouse? Do your friends? Do your employees? Think of the opportunities that you have to help bring out the best in the people you care about. Think about the joy you can amplify in their lives when you respond actively and constructively to their good news. And like my Mom and Dad did for me, think about the lasting memories you are helping create for the people you love.

Be there for the people you care about. Let your loved ones run to you.


If you would like to reprint Mr. Pollay’s columns or include them in your blog, please email David




Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal andinterpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 238-245.

UW Madison 4×100 Anchor (Foot race) courtesy of Mark Sadowski


  • Chris says:

    Thanks David for such a great message this month! I especially like the very applicable advice you give on how to be the best active listener possible. I am going to re-commit to being an Active and Constructive listener for all of those that I care about!

  • mikey says:

    David, another awesome job buddy. This one touched me especially. You know why? Because you are one of the few a run to. You are always supportive and you always make me feel proud of myself. I, my brother, are proud of you. Great job.

  • halle says:

    Hi David! What a great story! I had a…hmmm…I knew a man in college that really bugged me every time he was around, until I heard my roommate tell him some story about how she decided to grow a garden, or she got a good grade on a test, or some other story of triumph that made her very proud…this guy, who bugged me so badly, smiled at her, wanted to know all the details and gave her his complete undivided attention and good cheer. That interaction completely turned ME around on how I felt about him! From then on, we became good friends, and always told each other about our truimphs, and also our sadness. Thanks for reminding me about how powerful this lessen is not only for those directly involved, but for others who may be listening!

  • Corey Abbott says:

    Hi David. This story will be a constant reminder for many, to keep those important to us close at hand for inspiration and ideas. I feel privileged to have a close network of friends and family I can turn to for a positive influence to my life’s events. College for me has been a very active and rewarding experience and I can say one of the strongest influences has been through friends and family. Their constant appeal to me being a part of my community and activities has made my experience more satisfying than I ever thought it could be. I can run to anyone one of my family members or close friends with achievements I am proud of, knowing the response will be positive and one of excitement. I also know they feel the same way. They come to me with plenty of accomplishments and we, together, share in their earned success. I find that the feeling of success and accomplishment is lifted even more so, by sharing it with the ones we love. Your short story has caused me to glimpse into the past, present, and future of accomplishments that I and my close relations will be sharing, whether in reminiscence or the very present. I will keep your story and many others of my own readily at hand in my mind, never forgetting the power of friendship, the occasional smile and the constant compliment. Till next time… thank you.

  • Wayne Jencke says:

    Did you know that curiosity is a driver of satisfying relationships?

  • Siddharth says:

    Great story , great thought.A very strong tool to judge the category of people in one’s life at the same time rate ourself in our friends & family list.

  • Tamara says:


    This is a great reminder to appreciate the people in our lives who encourage us through their heartfelt support and excitement when we share with them. It can be a downer when the reaction is anything other than active and constructive which is so sad; both sides lose out on so much.
    My life is that much richer when I am the one someone “runs to”. I am blessed with 2 sons who run to me often and vice versus. The result is a love and connection like no other. Thanks for reaching out and reminding us to be thankful for our loved ones and the gentle reminders to be the best we can be!! Tamara

  • Lillian says:

    David, You are a great and insightful writer: You know how to get to the heart of your subject, and tell it in such an exciting way that the heart skips a beat and runs to the finish line with you. I can relate to your running home because I always had that relationship with my mother, and my dad when he got home from work. Good work! You will help many, many people. All the best. Lil

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Thanks Chris for your post! While your friends are already lucky that they can count on you, it is great that you are committed to being even more supportive of them. Enjoy!

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Mikey,

    Thanks for your kind post; you’re a good man. And I sure prize being able to run to you in my life.

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Halle,

    That is such a great story! You point out how great and supportive people come in different packages. The individual in your story really cared about the people in his life; his sincerity overshadowed the things that were previously distracting about him. Thanks for the great post!

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Corey,

    What a beautiful post. I am so happy for you that you have such a rich and satisfying network of friends and family in your life. I know that the people in your life are proud of you for all that you are accomplishing. Enjoy the continued sharing in your life!

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for the post! Curiosity is a great strength to have in life. Do you remember who conducted the study?


  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Siddarth,

    Great point! It is a good barometer of the health of our relationships!

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Tamara,

    Thanks for the great post! You really are right; we are given a blessing when people we care about share their good news with us. And our good reaction to the news allows us to deepen our relationships with the people we care about. And your sons sure are lucky to have you.

    Best to you,

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Lillian,

    Thanks for your support, and for your post! How wonderful that your parents were there for you! And it is clear that you are continuing in their great tradition!

    Best to you,

  • Amanda says:

    Once again i start to giggle when i read your articles. I still run to my phone to call my family with exciting news and even the bad! I feel like it is a huge relief to hear my parents say “Way to go.” I feel like you need there approval to be complete! Thanks again for the great article and thoughts! i hope all is well!!

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  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Amanda!

    Thanks Amanda. It is so great that you have such a wonderful family supporting you! And when you run to them with your good news, it’s so cool that you’re actually giving them a gift too. Thanks for all your support!

    Best to you,

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  • Sandy Hardin says:

    I just wanted to share this song with you, thought you might make it your theme song….”Who Do You Run To?”
    go to the myspace page and it is there for your listening.
    Big hugs to everybody…
    Sandy Hardin

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