Tell Me Something Good. Or Don't.
Telling others about a positive experience heightens that experience for you, and if you're on the listening end of the telling of a positive experience, it's important to be actively happy (it's called an active-constructive response and the research is here). Practice mudita, which you may recall is being happy for someone else's happiness. It's known as sympathetic joy.
When I pick up my tween from school each day, the first thing I usually say after I greet her is "Tell me something good." Sometimes, as soon as she gets in the car I know there's something happening in her head that's not so good, and she has a tendency to lead with that. For her, pausing to search and stretch her mind to find something good is a practice that helps her and makes her feel better. She also re-evaluates the complaint or whatever else she was about to unload.
Meanwhile, sometimes there's an urgent not-so-good thing to discuss, so we do that.
This Might Not Be The Week To Try This
Holidays and the end of the year, when many are taking stock, might not be the time to ask for something good. This is why I don't like scripts and checklists and "Things to say when . . . "
My tween has a history of being a certain way, however that's not what determines what I say after I greet her. I can feel her nervous system when she comes in the car. I'm usually pretty resourced at that moment, as I've just spent 30 minutes on carline reading or meditating or catching up with a friend or relative (you know, on the phone?). When my daughter is upset, her nervous system, her face, her voice, her movements, all tell me. Fortunately, I'm listening for her signals.
Are You Listening?
When your nervous system is regulated and you have plenty of patience and compassion for whatever/whoever comes your way, your nervous system does a lot of your listening.
Think of it in a systems kind of way. I wrote about being an open system in April of 2021 and that might be helpful, here. The upshot is we're influenced by other systems and inputs. And one of those is the presence of another nervous system. If we aren't well-regulated and a dysregulated person is the influence, we can easily spiral further into dysregulation. Meanwhile, if we aren't well-regulated and someone who is well-regulated is with us, that person can help regulate us.
The Recipe for What to Say . . .
Between work parties, neighborhood parties, and family get-togethers, you might have oodles of opportunities to explore whether asking for something good is a good idea. Here's the recipe:
Ground yourself. There are short and long options for grounding practices here.
Make sure your heart is open, and you can physically do that by pulling your shoulders back and down. Extra points if your palms are open, facing front.
Briefly scan your body for any tension or tightness. Check your mind for assumptions, biases, or unkind thoughts. Soften the body and calm the mind.
When someone approaches you or vice versa, listen to them with your whole body, including your heart. Take them in.
As Gregory Kramer says in his insight dialogue guidelines, attune to emergence. In other words, you listen to the other person AND you listen to what's arising in you as a result of their presence and what they've shared (which might not be congruent, and that tells you something—they're not willing or able to be open with you at that moment).
You now have a lot of information: the state of your nervous system as a result of them in your presence, what their system is telling you, and what their words are saying. Those are your ingredients. The wise and skillful thing to do or say will come to you; that's what attuning to emergence is. Maybe asking them to tell you something good isn't even an option.
If you have a daily practice of listening to your own experience and being with it as it arises, you know what that feels like.
If you have a practice that grounds you, you know what that feels like.
If you have a practice of opening your heart to others, you know what that feels like.
And if you have these practices, you have a brain that will predict you'll enlist them.
It's difficult to work with The Recipe above if you don't know what the various ingredients feel like. Meanwhile, you don't need The Recipe above if you have The Prerequisites.
At any given moment, greeting people and asking them to tell you something good is helpful for some people, but not for everyone.
May ease find you.