Learn How To LEAD Wellbeing Across Your Workplace, School Or Community. GRAB YOUR EARLY BIRD SPOT
Are You Ruining Your Relationships?

Are You Ruining Your Relationships?

BY Michelle McQuaid

When it comes to doing well at work, there’s no doubt a growing body of scientific evidence suggests: “other people matter”.  In fact, positive social connections – in others words good relationships – have been found to predict our ability to learn, to motivate us more than money or power and to improve our effectiveness and performance at work.

Research suggests having a best friend at work makes it seven times more likely you’re engaged in your job and is likely to help you produce higher quality work, improve your wellbeing and make it less likely you’ll be injured on the job.

Of course if you want to turn a colleague into a best friend it’s important you’re there to support them through the natural lows and highs we all have at work. But is it paying particular attention to the good times or the bad times your friend encounters, that will most likely shape the quality of your relationship?

How To Enhance Your Relationships

A study by Professor Shelly Gable and her colleagues have found when someone shares news of a victory or just a good thing that’s happened to them, how you respond can either build the relationship or undermine it.

I know, this took me by surprise as well!

Turns out when we take delight in other people’s windfalls or successes by asking questions that appreciate and validate their good fortune, it’s a positivity boost for you and them.

Gable calls this “active-constructive responding”.

The researchers found it’s in these moments we feel understood, validated and cared for and as a result our feelings of commitment and satisfaction in the relationship are enhanced.

In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV I’ll show you how to authentically pull this off and improve your relationships at the office.

How Does Active Constructive Responding Improve Relationships?

Think back to the last time your closest friend at work shared some good news with you. Perhaps they’d just been promoted, landed a great project or had some extra holiday leave approved. How did you respond?

Chances are you tried one of these four approaches:

  • You may have been passive and destructive saying something like: Great, but have you finished that report I gave you? You’ve really not engaged with their good news at all and in fact changed the subject to something that’s likely to kill off any positivity they’re feeling and damage your relationship.
  • You may have been active and destructive saying something like: “But how are you going to pull that off and meet all your other commitments?” You’ve engaged in their news, but you’ve also probably completely ruined their good mood and not done your relationship any favors.
  • You may have been passive and constructive saying something like: “That’s great.”  You’ve acknowledged something good has happened, but you haven’t really engaged in what it means for them or used it as an opportunity to deepen your relationship.
  • Or hopefully you may have been active and constructive saying something like: “How wonderful? When did you find out? What does this mean for you?” You’ve acknowledged their good news and you’re giving them a chance to share and savor why they’re excited about what’s happened and create a good memory in your relationship.

Not only does an active constructive response make the person you’re asking feel good, by sharing in their positive emotions you’ll also feel great as well. So next time someone at work shares some good news with you try to respond actively and constructively by asking questions that lets them draw out the story of what’s unfolded so they can savor the good things that are happening for them and build a closer relationship.

Want more help on active-constructive responding? Click here for a great workshop to guide your responses or watch this short video by Professor Martin Seligman explaining this approach to relationships.

What happens to you relationships when you respond actively and constructively to others?

Quick tip:You can save this post to your favorites, so you can access it quickly and easily later! Just click the “Add to Favorites” button to save it forever. You can then find it later in My Toolbox -> My Favorites.


Do you want to help boost people’s wellbeing, resilience & performance? Then join us for the next round of Certificate In Creating Wellbeing.

Learn More


Join us on LinkedIn where we'll share the latest research and practical ways to care for our wellbeing.



Find out where you're thriving and struggling as you care for your team.



Listen to the world’s leading positive psychology researchers and practitioners as they share their insights on our top-rated podcast.

Listen Now