iServi News | 7 December 2018 | Term 4, Week 9
As the school year is closing off and the Christmas celebrations are in full swing, I am sure that you find yourselves engaging in lots of conversations with families and friends. As I too am catching up with friends (some that I may have not seen in months), I am reminded that there is a real art to participating in meaningful and purposeful conversations.
Kate Hood (an Associate Trainer for the Institute of Positive Education) shares the benefits of Active Constructive Responding (a method of conversation). It is a powerful Positive Education concept that can enhance positive emotions for both the speaker and the listener. Active Constructive Responding builds relationships encourages connections during the conversation and enables everyone to contribute to the conversation.
I hope you find the article a useful resource that you can put into practice this festive season.
I wish you all a very Holy and Joyful Christmas. Please keep safe and healthy and I look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Mrs Franca Coutts
The Benefits of Active Constructive Responding
I love watching how young people and adults interact. It’s interesting because the age gap offers an obvious difference in social position, opinion, and, sometimes, power. Recently, I spent time camping in the south of Tasmania with a group of Year 7 students and at one point our local GP and friend came to visit for a night. We were camped at his property and he flew down to ensure the students were having a good time. He took them exploring through a secret cave and taught them about the history and unique flora and fauna of Tasmania. It was fascinating for the students, but it was the way he interacted with them that was most striking, most impressive, and that most enhanced their experience. I heard him interacting with statements like “I just need to start the generator John, but I’m going to come back and talk to you more about your favourite surf spots” and “that’s amazing Jamie, what did it smell like there?”
This is a man who has travelled the world, worked in Africa and Antarctica, directed stage productions, and has so many stories to tell. Yet, it was his interest in the students that connected him to them. He was genuinely interested in what they had to say, their lives, and their interests. He was unwittingly, perfectly applying the theory of Active Constructive Responding, the theoretical brain child of UCLA Professor Shelly Gable (Seligman, 2012).
Active Constructive Responding (ACR) is a way of responding when someone shares good experiences or information. If the receiver of the good news actively and constructively responds it can often provide a boost in wellbeing to both people involved in the conversation (Lambert et al, 2013). Traditional psychology has thoroughly studied how people respond when things go wrong, through practices such as appraisals and coping (Gable et al, 2004). However, until Gable and her team theorised and examined the ways of responding to good news, there was very little analysis available.
What Gable’s research found is that people most commonly respond to good news in one of four ways:
Now, of course we all aim to ACR when anyone shares good news with us but sometimes we get too tired, distracted, or busy to do so. In my example above, the GP was happy to delay a conversation, but he did it in a way that didn’t deflate the student.
Sometimes pointing out the risks involved in a situation is certainly required. We all know the people we turn to in our lives when we need some constructive criticism or honest advice in order to form balanced, well-considered decisions. However, when a friend, colleague or loved one shares the gift of good news, it’s our initial response to what is being shared, that can directly contribute to the building and maintenance of healthy, happy relationships.
Benefits of ACR
In Gable et al’s (2004) paper, four studies were completed. They examined the effects of ACR for people in intimate relationships of longer than three months, as well as married couples. The below results were found:
(Gable et al, 2010).
ACR conveys a response that demonstrates understanding, care, and validation not only of what the person has to say, but of your relationship with them. ACR is the spark that a “people person” has when response to good news is genuine and authentic. We also know that ACR can be practised and developed to become the natural way in which you respond to good news gifted to you.
“People may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buehner