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What is active constructive responding?

Active constructive responding relates to the way we respond to good news. Shelley Gable states that there are 4 ways we can respond to good news. We can respond passively or actively which relates to our level of engagement with the other person and constructively or destructively which relates to the focus of the response. These responses translate into:

  • Active constructive responses
  • Passive constructive responses
  • Active destructive responses
  • Passive destructive responses

Why is active constructive responding important?

The way we respond to other people’s news impacts on our relationship with them. The benefits of active constructive responding include:

  • Strengthened relationships
  • Reduced conflict
  • More effective interpersonal connection

How do we do it?

Let’s look at the 4 main options we have when we respond to other people’s good news. For example someone may say  “I just got employee of the month!” You then have a choice. You can respond with a passive constructive response such as “Great!” but then go back to what you were doing. It tends to be accompanied by low energy and interest.

This kind of response whilst positive (constructive) is passive because there is little engagement. Interestingly, this is the most damaging kind of response because the person feels like you are not interested or authentic in your response.

Same scenario, “I just got employee of the month!” You may choose a passive destructive response such as “Hey have you heard back from the Pilson account yet?

This kind of response takes the conversation away from the original good news (therefore it is passive) and focuses on something else (so is destructive) It can lead to the other party feeling unheard, disappointed or frustrated.

Let’s look at a third alternative, you may choose an active destructive statement like “Yippee for you. You know they only do those awards to make themselves look good don’t you – they don’t actually mean anything!”  

This kind of response is engaged (active) but the focus is very much on the negative (destructive) leading to a demotivating or dismissive comment. This can leave the other party feeling disappointed, shocked or deflated.

A better response is an active constructive response such as “ That’s fantastic! What extra good things have you been doing this month?”

This kind of response is both engaging and positive so therefore will yield the benefits we outlined earlier.

Active constructive responding may sound like a no-brainer but watch yourself and see how often you slip up. It’s actually easier for many people to focus on the negative, on themselves or disengage from interactions because they are too busy or self absorbed. Active constructive responding takes awareness and intent in order to realise the benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about our Effective communication skills courses contact jill@jemtraining.com.au