Active Constructive Responding

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In Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman tells us:

“So when your spouse comes home from work, for example, with a victory, what do you say to her? So imagine your spouse comes home and she’s been promoted at work. What do you say? What then ensues? Well, there’s a two-by-two table of the ways in which you can respond to her. Active, passive, constructive, destructive. And so she comes home from work, and she’s been promoted, and he says, you know what tax bracket that’s going to put us into? So that’s active destructive. It doesn’t help the relationship. The most common form, which is what I did, is passive constructive. And that’s, congratulations dear, you really deserve it. That has no effect, wallpaper. There’s also, by the way, passive destructive, which is, what’s for dinner? The only thing that works, and it doesn’t come naturally, you have to learn it, we script it and teach you how to do it, is active constructive. Now, in active constructive, what you’re trying to do is to get her to relive the experience of being promoted. And so, for example, it might start in the following way. You know dear, I’ve read the reports you wrote to the corporation for the last year. And that last one you wrote on retirement is really the best fiscal document I’ve read in my 25 years of corporate life. Now, exactly, what did your boss say to you when he told you you were promoted? And she tells you. He said, well, where were you, and how did he start the conversation? So you’re getting her to relive it. So she starts to relive it. And then, what do you think the real reasons you got promoted are? What are the highest strengths that you’ve shown that have gotten you promoted? And how can you use those more with the kids in a church? And lets go open a bottle of champagne. Now, it turns out, when you teach couples to do that, love goes up, sexuality goes up, and the divorce rate goes down. And active constructive responding to good news is not just about couples. It’s certainly about friendship and about the workplace as well.

Wow. “when you teach couples to do that, love goes up, sexuality goes up, and the divorce rate goes down.”

An old friend recently told me they were seeing someone. I chose to respond actively constructively: First, I said that is FIRE! Then I asked how they met, what they did for a career, etc. This helped them recall and relive the positive emotions and helped me engage in Love 2.0 or a micro-moment of positivity resonance with a friend.

DestructiveConstructive
ActivePositivity thief. Deflates good news. Raises alarm.Joy multiplier. Genuine interest. Amplifies the experience.
PassiveConversation hijacker. Ignores event. Steals or changes conversation.Conversation killer. Understand support. Conversation stalls.
DestructiveConstructive
ActiveI don’t believe you! It sounds stressful.Great news! I knew you could do it. How do you feel? Tell me more?
PassiveHuh. Well, I just got a new video game.Oh cool, good for you.

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