PERMA Series – Part 3: ‘R for Relationships’


Perhaps the most important element to a relationship is the way we feel when we speak with people and the extent to which we feel the person we are with hears and cares about what we say. We all know how disheartening it feels to talk to a brick wall.

There are four different ways to respond to other people (see below). Which do you think is the most destructive? Which way of responding to the news of a promotion at work do you think is evident in strong relationships?

Name of Response Type Type of Response
Active Constructive Verbal: ‘That’s fantastic! How did you feel? What happened?’ etc

Non-verbal: Smiling, eye contact, touching, laughing

Passive Constructive Verbal: ‘That’s great!’

Non-verbal: Minimal emotional expression

Active Destructive Verbal: ‘How much is that going to cost? How are you going to manage all that?’

Non-verbal: Furrowed brow, scowl

Passive Destructive Verbal: ‘What’s on television?’ or if you’re really lucky a grunt

Non-verbal: Turning body, leaving conversation

(Adapted from ‘Flourish’ by Martin Seligman, 2011, pg 49)

Other ways to be an effective listener include open body language, not band-aiding (saying ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be ok’ etc), undermining or championing the other person (‘oh that’s nothing, you should hear what happened to me’), being empathetic and remaining focussed on the conversation (nothing like pulling a phone out mid-discussion to put a dampener on things!)

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