Listening to Good News

Good News.jpg

An alternative name for this activity is CIA. Here’s what the three letters of the acronym stand for: constructive, immediate, and active.

Whenever someone shares a piece of positive news, react constructively, immediately, and actively. This strengthens your relationship and makes both of you happy. To learn more about this approach, read the handout at the end of the instructions.


Strengthen your relationships by capitalizing on the good things that happen your friends.


Minimum: 30 minutes.

Maximum: 1 hour

Best: 40 to 50 minutes


Minimum: 2

Maximum: Any number

Best: 10 to 20


Capitalizing (one copy for each participant)


Introduce the topic of capitalization. Distribute copies of the handout. Pause while participants read it. Discuss the four types of reactions to good news. Emphasize the importance of active and constructive capitalization.

Brief the participants. Explain that the participants will alternate between team discussions and one-on-one roleplays to increase their fluency in responding to good news in a constructive, immediate, and active fashion.

Form groups. Divide the participants into two equal groups and identify them as Group A and Group B. If one group has an extra person, make this participant an observer. Alternatively, join the other group so both groups have equal number of participants. Place different colored dots on the nametags (or foreheads) of the members of each group to make it easy to identify the group to which each participant belongs.

Get ready. Ask the members of the two groups to move to opposite sides of the room. Ask members Group A to brainstorm different types of happy news that people usually share with their partners or friends. Give examples such as getting a promotion or receiving an award. At the same time, ask members of Group B to brainstorm responses to happy news from a partner or friend that would fit into the capitalizing (active, constructive, and immediate) approach. Announce a 3-minute time limit.

Conduct the first rapid roleplay. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle. Explain that you are going to conduct a series of one-on-one conversations between a person with the happy news and a friend. Ask each participant to pair up with a member of the other group. Explain that the person from Group A will initiate a conversation by enthusiastically blurting out a piece of happy news. The person from Group B will respond to it immediately, actively, and constructively. The two people will continue their conversation.

Also explain that once every minute you will blow the whistle. The participants must stop the conversations immediately (even if it is in the middle of something) and pair up with a different member of the other group. Instruct them to begin another conversation with this new person.

Blow the whistle to start the first conversation. Blow the whistle once every minute or so. Conclude the activity at the end of about 5 minutes.

Get ready for role changes. Explain that participants are going to switch their roles and conduct more rapid roleplays. Before doing that, invite everyone to get ready for their changed roles by reflecting on what they experienced during the first round.

Ask members of Group A to think back on what happened during the earlier one-on-one conversations. How did the other person give an immediate, active, and constructive reaction? What best practices can you borrow from your interactions and use them effectively when you are playing the role of a friend?

Ask members of Group B to think back on the good news shared by members of the other group. When you play the role of a happy and excited friend during the next round, what kinds of statements can you come up with?

Invite the participants to work with members of their group to get ready for the next round of rapid roleplay. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this preparation activity.

Conduct the second rapid roleplay. Explain that you are going to conduct another series of rapid roleplays as before with the same rules but with different roles: Members of the Group B will pair up with members of Group A. Group B members will initiate the conversation with a piece of happy news. Group A members will respond to it in an active, constructive, and immediate fashion. Whenever you blow the whistle, participants will stop the conversation and pair up with a different member of the other team.

Blow the whistle to start the first conversation. Blow the whistle once every minute or so to change partners. Conclude the activity at the end of 5 minutes.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Thanks everyone for their enthusiastic participation. Invite them to discuss what they learned from the rapid roleplay sessions. Get the discussion rolling with these types of open-ended questions:

  • Did your active and constructive response relate to the type of the good news shared by the other person?

  • What types of active and constructive responses seem to work effectively with different types of good news?

  • How spontaneous did you sound in making your response?

  • In your real life, do you typically capitalize on good things that happen to your partner or friend?

  • What are some examples of active and constructive responses?

  • Even though this is a roleplay, how did you feel when hearing an active and constructive response from your “friend”?

  • What types of active and constructive comments and questions sound natural to you?

  • When was the last time someone shared some positive news with you? How did you respond? How would you respond in the future in similar conversations?

  • When was the last time you shared some positive news with someone else? How did the other person respond?



Research by Shelly Gable suggests that support between friends during good times is as important as support during bad times.

We all know the importance of supporting, consoling, and reassuring a friend who shares bad things that happened to him or her. It is about time that we learn how to respond to a friend who blurts out something good that happened to him or her. This is where Shelly Gable’s research helps us.

Let’s assume that your friend says, “I got an A for my online course assignment!”

There are four basic ways you can respond to this good news:

Passive Destructive

You become jealous. You change the topic.

Here are examples of this type of response:

Looks like it’s going to rain.

Your room is in shambles.

Passive Constructive

You don’t make a big deal. Your friend knows that you are happy for her. You say little. You ignore additional details.

Here are examples of this type of response:

That’s nice.

Good job!

Active Destructive

You are disinterested. You don’t care. You focus on how you feel. You are jealous. You don’t pay attention. You find problems associated with your friend’s good news. You de-emphasize the achievement. You point out the potential downside. You put your friend down. You begin preaching against pride and vanity

Here are examples of this type of response:

Everybody gets an A in these online courses.

An A in a course does not translate to an A in life.

Now you have to work harder to maintain your grades.

Just a fluke.

Active Constructive

Your friend feels that you are as happy as she is. You ask a lot of questions about the good news. You are enthusiastic. You comment on your friend’s talents. You ask for more details. You share your friend’s good news with others. You point out how deserving you friend is.

Here are examples of this type of response:

Best news I heard this week.

This is the beginning of a lot of As.

You must be proud of yourself.

This is not surprising. With all of the hard studying you did, you deserve it.

Shelly Gable calls the last type of response – the active constructive one – capitalizing. This type of response strengthens your relationship. It makes your friend happy. And it makes you happy also.


In working with capitalization, I have found that it is the first, immediate, and spontaneous response to the good news that is important. So, it does not work if you say something like,

Remember last Friday when you said you’ve got an A, I said, “Don’t Gloat. Everybody gets an A in these online assignments” what I really meant to say was, “I am so proud of you. You’re a great student.”

Remember the next time you hear some good news about your partner, friend, family members, or co-worker, react immediately in an active and constructive fashion.

To make it easy for you to remember this prescription, let’s rearrange the three important features into the CIA acronym.

Make the Most of the Good News

Here’s a list of guidelines:

  • React enthusiastically.

  • Show that you are happy and excited.

  • Ask constructive questions such as How did you feel when it happened? Tell me everything!

  • Continue the conversation about the positive event late in the day or on the next day.