3 sneaky relationship-damaging habits to avoid

Imagine your battle buddy comes to you and says, “Hey, can we talk for a minute? I have a problem.” You would probably stop everything and give him your full attention because you know it’s an important moment in your relationship. Now imagine the same battle buddy comes to you and says, “I just had this really amazing thing happen this weekend! Do you have a minute?” Do you drop everything and give him your full attention the same way you would if he came to you with a problem?

It’s important for the health of your relationships to be there for people when they’re dealing with problems. But what you might not know is that how you react when others share good news is just as important, if not even more so. If you respond in a way that helps your friend, partner, or child maintain and build excitement, you’ll build trust, connection, intimacy, and satisfaction in your relationship, while you also reduce conflict.

“When someone comes to you with good news,
you have an opportunity to either build your relationship or damage it."

When good things happen, you want to share that excitement with others. Unfortunately, responding to good news in a way that causes someone to lose excitement can damage your relationship over time. The kicker is: You might not even realize your response is having that effect. So how can you further build your relationships? For starters, avoid these 3 ways of responding when someone shares good news with you.

#1: The Excitement Extinguisher

An Excitement Extinguisher offers positive feedback without emotion, and the conversation quickly ends. Often the support offered is distracted, quiet, delayed, or low in energy. For example, you’re watching TV and your child comes up to you excited to share a picture he or she just drew. You respond, “Wow, that’s great!” and then you return to watching TV. People often respond this way, thinking their positive response is enough to build a relationship, but the lack of authentic interest and enthusiasm has the opposite effect, and over time it will cause your relationship to deteriorate.

#2: The One-Upper

You’re a One-Upper when you make the conversation about yourself rather than the other person’s excitement. It’s normal and appropriate to share similar experiences in conversations, but when you steal someone’s excitement by making his or her good news seem less important because of your “better” version of their story, you’re now damaging your relationship.

#3: The Problem Detector

When you point out any problems or negative aspects of good news that’s being shared with you, you become a Problem Detector. Often this comes from a place of genuine concern and a desire to help someone improve. Still, that genuine concern crushes the other person’s excitement and damages your relationship. Instead, realize you can voice your concerns at a later time, when the person is less excited. Later, she or he might be more receptive to your concerns. This approach still allows you to build your relationship by sharing in the initial excitement when he or she tells you the good news.

Thumbs upHow to build a relationship: Excitement Magnifier

The best way to build your relationships is by being an Excitement Magnifier! Try to consciously share in someone’s excitement and help him or her leave the conversation as, or even more, excited. Do this by showing authentic, enthusiastic support. Help the person relive what happened. And make sure to ask what he or she enjoyed most about the experience.

Bottom line

When someone comes to you with good news, you have a chance to either build your relationship or damage it. If you respond as an Excitement Magnifier, you can build your relationship and maybe even boost the other person’s well-being, as well as your own.

This Active Constructive Responding video from the Kansas National Guard shows examples of an Excitement Extinguisher (passive constructive), One-Upper (passive destructive), Problem Detector (active destructive), and Excitement Magnifier (active constructive). Watch and learn how to identify whether you respond in ways that can hurt or help your relationships.



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Gable, S. L., & Reis, H. T. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 42 (pp. 195–257). San Diego, CA: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/s0065-2601(10)42004-3

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), 228–245. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.87.2.228

Lambert, N. M., Gwinn, A. M., Baumeister, R. F., Strachman, A., Washburn, I. J., Gable, S. L., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A boost of positive affect. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 24–43. doi:10.1177/0265407512449400