“Words have the power to to destroy or heal. When words are both true and kind they can change our world.”- Gautama Buddha
When your girlfriend buys a new dress and asks for your opinion, how do you respond? How about when your kid wants to tell you about what he did in school?
The way you communicate with people can create a huge impact on your relationships, especially when we use positive, active, constructive communication.
Studies have shown that positive communication is related to increases in positive mood, which strengthens our relationships and increases well-being on a daily basis (Gable et. al., 2004).
But first, let us understand what other ways are there?
Four Different Ways to Communicate
There are four typical types of communication which differ according to how much engagement there is and whether the emotions and whether it is constructive or destructive. Seligman and Reivich (2011) state the four types as:
- Active Destructive: pointing out negative aspects of a situation
- Passive Destructive: ignoring the circumstance or the person completely
- Passive Constructive: supporting someone but in an understated way.
- And lastly, the one that will be further explored in this article, Active Constructive communication which is giving both authentic and enthusiastic support.
Active Constructive Communication
Let’s say someone tells you they will go abroad for a trip.
The responses of “But have you checked the news?” or “I wish it was my turn.” might not be the most effective in creating trust, self-esteem, and a positive relationship as much as if you said: “Brilliant! Tell me more about it. I hope you have a wonderful trip!”
This sharing of the good things in life can be described as Active-Constructive communication. Where our responses “express involvement, excitement or enthusiasm about the good news” (Jones & Bodie, 2014).
Why use Active Constructive Communication
“When given active and constructive feedback, participants responded with more love, appreciation, and happiness.” (Lambert et. al., 2013)
When we communicate actively, it shows our engagement and interest, while being constructive in communication encourages celebration and shows our support (Parks & Biswas-Diener, 2013). This sounds like the kind of response we all want when we share the good news that is important to us, right?
Active constructive or supportive communication can build a positive relationship and enhance self-esteem. According to research, active constructive communication indicates a better relationship and positive sentiments between partners (Gable & Reis, 2010). In addition, it also fosters better interpersonal flow (Kauffman, 2006).
How to Start Using Active Constructive Communication
Unfortunately, there is no recipe for creating more positive relationships and building self-esteem, we are all unique in our relationships and communication needs.
However here are some main features of Active Constructive communication which will help you on your way to happier and healthier communication. Adapt these various ways to your unique personality and you can start boosting your relationships:
- Share your Positive Experiences
- Ask open-ended questions
- Relive and share an event
- Acknowledge your feelings and those of others
- Offer to celebrate in light of good news
- Respond enthusiastically
- When offering verbal feedback, use an energetic voice, ask specific questions and provide positive feedback as well as growth areas or negative aspects
- When using nonverbal feedback, try raising your eyebrows, nod your head or smile.
(Woods et. al., 2014, Jones & Bodie, 2014, Seligman, 2012)
Take Home Message
In conclusion, communicating actively and constructively, will create reciprocal interactions that enhance our emotional intensity (Conoley et. al., 2015). It also links to a core human value; we all want to be acknowledged, find and contribute meaning and have our voice heard.
So next time you find yourself taking a pause before you respond, ask yourself, am I being active and constructive?
We would love you hear your voice, what techniques have you used to increase your active constructive communication? And have you noticed improvements in your positive emotions or relationships since you began using it? Leave us a comment below.
Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.
Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of personality and social psychology, 87(2), 228.
Reivich, K. J., Seligman, M. E., & McBride, S. (2011). Master resilience training in the US Army. American Psychologist, 66(1), 25.
Jones, S. M., & Bodie, G. D. (2014). 16 Supportive communication.Interpersonal communication, 6, 371.
Parks, A. C., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2013). Positive interventions: Past, present and future. Bridging acceptance and commitment therapy and positive psychology: A practitioner’s guide to a unifying framework. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Lambert, N. M., Gwinn, A. M., Baumeister, R. F., Strachman, A., Washburn, I. J., Gable, S. L., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). A boost of positive affect The perks of sharing positive experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 24-43.
Gable, S. L., & Reis, H. T. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. Advances in experimental social psychology, 42, 195-257.
Kauffman, C. (2006). Positive psychology: The science at the heart of coaching. Evidence-based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients, 219-253.
Woods, S., Lambert, N., Brown, P., Fincham, F., & May, R. (2014). “I’m so excited for you!” How an enthusiastic responding intervention enhances close relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407514523545.
Conoley, C. W., Vasquez, E., Bello, B. D. C., Oromendia, M. F., & Jeske, D. R. (2015). Celebrating the Accomplishments of Others Mutual Benefits of Capitalization. The Counseling Psychologist, 43(5), 734-751.