In his latest book, Flourish, Martin Seligman introduces very few tools to improve well-being – most of the book is a very interesting and opinionated summary of the current status of Positive Psychology.
One of the few tools presented is called: “Active, Constructive Responding” – and it is yet another piece of evidence that Positive Psychologists are “re-inventing” well-established Solution-Focused practices.
Here I quote Seligman: ” Strangely, marriage counseling usually consists of teaching partners to fight better. This may turn an insufferable relationship into a barely tolerable one… How we respond can either build the relationship of undermine it. There are four basic ways of responding, only one of which builds relationships” – and then he proceeds by providing two examples of the four styles.
I will only use the first of his examples, and I will highlight questions that come straight from SF practice:
Example – your partner says: I received a promotion and a raise at work!
Active and Constructive Response: “That is great! I am so proud of you. I know how important that promotion was to you! Please relive the event with me now. Where were you when your boss told you? What did he say? How did you react? We should go out and celebrate!” Nonverbal: maintaining eye contact, displaying positive emotions
Passive and Constructive Response: “That is good news. You deserve it.” Nonverbal: little or no active emotional expression.
Active and Destructive Response: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility to take on. Are you going to spend fewer nights at home now?” Nonverbal: display of negative emotions.
Passive and Destructive: “What’s for dinner?” Nonverbal: little to no eye contact, leaving
[Note: Seligman credits Shelly Gable, Professor of Psychology at UC Santa Barbara, for demonstrating that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight].
So… SF practitioners out there… do the highlighted questions ring a bell? ;)
I think we would be a little bit more natural in building an “Active & Constructive Response” to what Clients bring: Wow, I am so impressed!! How did you manage to get it? When did this happen? What did your boss say? And what did you say? Were there other people there? What did they say?…