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