Having a hard time connecting with a child? Feel a little distant from your eternal companion? Wendy Ulrich, in a guest blog at Mormon Times, tells us how to improve those relationships through doing one fairly small, and quite enjoyable thing: share in their joy.
She gives 4 examples of common responses to exciting or happy news presented by someone we love:
- To spouse: “This is going to mean a lot of extra work. I’m going to be really frustrated if you’re gone any more weekends. Did you let them know we’ll be on vacation in June?” (Nonverbal: frowning, furrowed brow)
- To friend: “I need to get my mail.” (Nonverbal: no eye contact, turning away)
- To child: “That’s nice, honey. I hope the party is fun.” (Nonverbal: little or no emotional expression)
- To brother: “You’re kidding! Which hole was it? How did everyone react? Did you take a picture? That’s so exciting! What club were you using?” (Nonverbal: smiling, laughing, eye contact)
Then points out the issues with the first 3, wherein the person doesn’t feel we’re genuinely happy or excited about whatever it may be. Sis. Ulrich also mentions labels given the different types of responses such as “passive constructive” for #3. As the label indicates, it’s a good response, but lacking true enthusiasm and emotion. On the other hand, when we truly care and respond in a positive, excited, and joyful way, the other person feels it and we’ll grow closer to that individual.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Answers to Questions on Christianity, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” I had this quote on my wall for some time. It was interesting to hear people’s reaction to it. Some people didn’t get it, or thought it was wrong. But it’s most definitely true: abusive, manipulative people can muster some “affectionate feeling” from time to time, but when we really love somebody, we always want what’s best for them. In fact real true love is when we want what’s best for the other person, even more than we want things for ourself. They are more important than our personal comfort.
That being true, sharing somebody’s joy should be quite easy, right? Well sometimes we take people for granted. Lulled into daily routines, our active appreciation for a spouse, child, or neighbor slowly fades until it is all but forgotten. Then when they have a new project they’re excited about, or something really great happens in their life, we don’t pay attention, we caution against downsides, or merely pay verbal homage to the moment. If you’re guilty of this, like me, it’s time to recommit to share the joy and excitement of those around you.
Let me know in what ways you’ve been guilty of this, or what you’ll are going to remind and focus yourself on doing better. Personally, I’ll start by apologizing to my wife for my “active destructive” (like #1 above) response to her recent business-idea project, and express my true support and excitement in an “active constructive” way.