Build a Culture of Trust

Capitalize On Moments of Connection to Multiply Joy

Many people believe the strength of a relationship depends on the answer to the question, “Will you be there for me when things go wrong?” While social support is important, we now know, based on the work of Dr. Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara is that the strength of a relationship depends on the answer to the question, “Will you be there for me when things go right?”

When your friend, spouse, peer, or family member chooses YOU out of all the people in their life to share good news or a moment of joy with, how you respond truly matters to the depth of that relationship. As you read through the four styles of responding below, think about how often you respond to the most important people in your life when they share a positive experience with you.

Four Styles of Responding

  • Conversation killer: When someone brings us good news, we are distracted by items such as the TV, phone, or a video game, and we respond with “Uh-huh,” “That’s nice,” or “OK.” Ultimately, the conversation fizzles out and comes to a halt.
  • Conversation hijacker: We ignore the good news and change the topic of conversation, or we “one up” their positive event with our own. Although not always done intentionally, we pull the rug out from underneath the sharer.
  • Joy thief: We squash the good news and rain all over their parade by pointing out all our concerns. Even when our concerns come from a good place, the sharer can walk away thinking, “I just thought you’d be happy for me.”
  • Joy multiplier: When someone brings us their moment of joy, we respond with authentic interest by asking questions, which allows the sharer to elaborate on their good news. The positive emotion is contagious and benefits both parties.

Sometimes we fail to turn toward or to multiply someone’s joy because we are tired and don’t care about the news. We may have concerns or don’t feel like we have the time to engage. These situations become missed opportunities to get closer to or connect with those we care about the most.

When we respond actively and constructively—what Gable refers to as the “joy multiplier” response style—we enhance the trust, intimacy, sense of belonging and fun in our relationships. The importance of how we respond has been echoed by relationship experts Drs. John and Julie Gottman, who describe the significance of “turning toward” a bid, which is when someone initiates a moment of connection with you.

The Gottmans found that successful couples nourish their relationships by turning toward their partner’s bids for connection 86 percent of the time. In their book, The Love Prescription, the Gottmans define love as a practice: “More than a feeling, it’s an action. It’s something you do, not something that just happens to you. And you need to give-and-get a daily dose to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship.”

According to the research, the ratio of positive events to negative ones in our daily lives is 5-to-1. Nearly 80 percent of the time, people share the best thing that happened during their day. These positive events can improve not only our relationships, but also our well-being and mental health. We must be aware of these opportunities to multiply joy and capitalize on them!


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