Home Happiness exercise: How to make people love you

Happiness exercise: How to make people love you


Happiness exercise: How to make people love you

Senia Maymin, MAPP


People Will Like You: Active Listening

If you’re read psychology books, you’ve likely heard of the term “active listening.”  And it probably means something along these lines to you:

Mary: “I had a really good day at the office today.  It seemed that everything was going right.  I even got complimented by my boss.”
Nancy (active listening, echoing back what she just heard): “It sounds like you had a really good day at the office, and that you’re enjoying remembering it.”
Mary: “Yes, also, I met a woman who works in a different department during lunch, and we had a great time laughing.  We even forgot to ask each other’s names until the end.”
Nancy (active listening): “You really enjoyed lunch with her.”
Mary: “Yes, definitely.”

Active listening is a nice way to make people feel heard.  There is a lot of research about the social and relationship benefits of active listening.

What if I told you there is a technique that’s even more powerful?  A technique that makes people love being around you?

People Will Love You: ACR

The father of the science of happiness is Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.  I was trained by Marty, and have been his Assistant Instructor for his positive psychology course at UPenn for three years.  Marty often recounts a conversation with British economist Richard Layard in which Layard described two great men in U.K. history:
You went away from Gladstone thinking, “That’s the smartest person I ever met.”  You went away from Disraeli thinking, “I’m the smartest person he ever met.”

Here is how to have people believe that YOU are the smartest person they’ve ever met.  It’s called Active Constructive Responding (ACR).  When you master this technique and if you’re friends with some positive psychologists, you may hear, “You’re a great ACRer” and “That’s some fine ACRing.”  First, I’ll show you in what situations to ACR (actively constructively respond), and secondly, I’ll show you how to do it.

1) When to ACR

At the University of Washington, researchers have studied couples for decades.  Researchers bring couples into the “Love Lab” as it’s called, and find that couples that respond in an ACR way to each other have much stronger relationships. Researchers can predict divorce in four years with 83-93% accuracy just by observing how couples interact.

Dr. Shelly Gable of the University of California at Santa Barbara is the hero of our story about ACR.  Gable realized that there was not much research on how people react to good news.  When one partner comes home and shares news about getting promoted at work, how does the other partner react?  Gable found that how people respond to good news significantly predicts the quality of the relationship.  Of the four boxes below, only one (the ACR box) corresponds to strong relationships.

2) How to ACR

How would you react to this situation?  Your significant other comes home (or your close friend calls on the phone) with the news, “I just got promoted.”

Gable describes four ways that you could react to this news:

Active: (ACR) *** “Really? Tell me more… How did you hear the news?  What will be new?” ***
Passive: “That sounds good.”  (Little emotion)

Active: “Well, you know that means you’ll be away from home more… Are you sure you’ve thought about it?”
Passive: “Can we talk about what happened to me today?”

Try it this week.  Try saying, “What else happened?” (active)  “Can we celebrate?” (active) “What about this is most exciting to you?” (constructive, building on this news).

For example:
Mary: “I had a really good day at the office today.  It seemed that everything was going right.  I even got complimented by my boss.”
Nancy (ACRing): “Kudos.  What did your boss say?  What was the reason for the compliment?”

In coaching, I often assign this as a “mind exercise” homework assignment between coaching sessions.  Try it this week without letting anyone know that you’re doing it.  Try it at work.  Try it at home.  Try it on the phone with your parents, your kids, or your friends.  Try asking them a little more about their good news (active) and building up the experience for them (constructive).

That’s one of my favorite things about some of these happiness exercises: you could know that you’re doing them and you could be getting results, but nobody else needs to know.

Take-Aways about ACR

1)    When.  Use ACR when celebrating someone’s good news.  It doesn’t have to be huge good news, even small good news.
2)    How.  Be yourself.  You don’t need to be overly effusive.  It’s about being active (interested and asking questions) and constructive (building up their points).

People will love you.
Try it and let me know.

Senia Maymin, MAPP Bio

Senia Maymin researches change and runs a Web site of daily research tips for happiness and success.

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