How to react to almost anything

See caption for alt text

Published on: March 23, 2020

How to React to Almost Anything

Whether the news is good or bad, how you reply is important! These tips can help improve your responses to anyone—partners, friends, family members, colleagues, or even strangers—and build your relationships.

Pay attention.

Think about what the other person is saying. Notice her or his tone of voice. Try to hear—and listen—so you can really absorb the information.

Show interest.

Look up from your phone or computer, so you can face the person. Maintain eye contact and avoid crossing your arms or clenching your fists. Mirror the other person’s facial expressions—smiling or frowning—as appropriate.

React with care.

If someone else’s good news makes you feel jealous, be aware of what you’re feeling. Be mindful of bad news that often can trigger your own feelings of anger, fear, or sadness. Slow down, think, and give a thoughtful response

Say this!

For good news, show enthusiasm. You might say, “That’s awesome!” Offer congratulations. You might say, “I’m so happy for you!” Ask for details. You might ask, “What was it like?” For bad news, empathize: You might say, “That’s tough, I’m sorry.” Validate: You might say, “It sounds like you’re pretty worried.” Offer support and specific ways to help. You might say, “Why don’t I help you with…?”

Do this!

Sidestep distractions and give your full attention. Resist the urge to make it about yourself or be a “One-Upper.” Try to be as genuine and real as possible. You might say, “I want to hear all the exciting details!” Skip tough questions that can overwhelm the person or make things worse.

CHAMP wants to know:

How useful was the information in this article?


Gable, S. L., & Reis, H. T. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 42, pp. 195-257). Academic Press.

Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(5), 904.

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. 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. (2013). A boost of positive affect: The perks of sharing positive experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 24-43 doi:10.1177/0265407512449400

Fruzzetti, A. E., & Worrall, J. M. (2010). Accurate Expression and Validating Responses: A Transactional Model for Understanding Individual and Relationship Distress. In K. T. Sullivan & J. Davila (Eds.), Support Processes in Intimate Relationships. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Zaki, J., & Williams, W. C. (2013). Interpersonal Emotion Regulation. Emotion, 13(5), 803-810. doi:10.1037/a0033839

Reis, H. T., Smith, S. M., Carmichael, C. L., Caprariello, P. A., Tsai, F.-F., Rodrigues, A., & Maniaci, M. R. (2010). Are You Happy for Me? How Sharing Positive Events With Others Provides Personal and Interpersonal Benefits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(2), 311-329. doi:10.1037/a0018344

Carton, J. S., Kessler, E. A., & Pape, C. L. (1999). Nonverbal Decoding Skills and Relationship Well-Being in Adults. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 23(1), 91-100. doi:10.1023/A:1021339410262