Have you ever noticed how it can feel uncomfortable to respond to positive or exciting news?
This discomfort can arise for a variety of reasons. In fact, according to Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist, one cause is the fear of being preemptively excited about something that might not come to fruition. Another reason could be unconscious envy or even a lack of attention to what your friend is sharing.
In her research, Brené Brown found that people reported joy as the most vulnerable emotion we experience. She shares how amidst joy, it becomes easy to “dress rehearse tragedy.” This palpable vulnerability might be one of the main reasons it can feel uncomfortable to respond to exciting news.
Whatever the reason, learning how to support your friends is valuable because it enables you to “see them” and connect on a deeper level.
So what do you say when the news is delightful, yet the mood feels uneasy? With conflicting input, it can be hard to know how to be supportive or keep the conversation going beyond “Wow. Congratulations!”
Here are a few ideas from therapists and relationship experts that you can use when someone shares joyous news. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but sometimes it helps to have a guide.
1. Use “I” messages. To facilitate a genuine response, Dr. Carla Manly suggests using “I” messages that include the actual accomplishment. As an example, you might say, “I feel delighted for you! What stellar news! Your first book will be published next July — that is amazing.” You can also use statements that reflect on the work that went into the accomplishment. For example, you might note, “You truly deserve that promotion. You work so hard and devote so much time to your job. I am thrilled for you!”
2. Follow up. Dr. Carla Manly also suggests following up with an act of kindness to concretize your support. Whether you send a batch of cookies, a flower bouquet, or a card of congratulations, it’s always a lovely gesture to honor life’s accomplishments with a kind gesture of support.
3. Ask questions. Jessica Small, an LMFT, shares how one of the most supportive things we can do for another person is to ask questions to show our interest and give that person space to celebrate. Try asking open-ended, general questions like “what are you most excited about?”, “tell me more about your plans for …”
4. Encourage continued conversation. Another idea that Jessica Small shared is to encourage dialogue and exploration through broad statements such as “I want to hear every detail,” “tell me more,” “start at the beginning, how did you find out about …”
5. Manage your feelings. Both Dr. Carla Manly and Jessica Small shared how our feelings and emotions can cloud our support. The only way to solve this is to notice what is coming up and manage the feelings accordingly.
6. Share relatable information. According to Jennifer Tomko, LCSW, researching, and sharing relatable information about what they might be experiencing is a great way to show your support. For example, after hearing that her niece was pregnant, Jennifer downloaded the What to Expect When You’re Expecting app to keep track of the pregnancy. To show her support, Jennifer sends weekly messages such as “our baby is the size of a lemon” or “the nausea should improve this week.”
7. Notice their strengths. When in doubt, lean into the vulnerability and find a way to notice your friend’s strengths. It took courage to get to where they are.
Do you have any other tips or phrases to use when you don’t know how to proceed? Feel free to share them in the comments below [or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org]! We would be happy to hear from you.
Thinking of someone that could use your encouragement and support? Show them! KOYA is free to download and use.