In the latest season of HBO’s comedy series Veep, the President, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, makes small talk with her White House Press Secretary by asking “When’s your baby coming?” Elated to share his good news, the Press Secretary launches into details of his adopted baby’s arrival. An impatient look from Dreyfus shuts down his story, and he mumbles, “Misunderstood your level of interest, sorry.”
The fictional President’s staff on Veep are not the only ones excited to share positive events with others. In fact, psychologists have studied this phenomenon of sharing positive events, called capitalization, and they have found that it occurs often in our daily lives. People tend to share the positive things that happen to them, including both events that seem important and those that seem more trivial, the majority of the time.
Interestingly, just by sharing their good news with others, people can gain additional benefits above and beyond the happy event itself. Sharing positive news with others is associated with benefits such as feeling more positive and more satisfied with life, greater self-esteem, and decreases in feeling lonely.
But what about the reaction of the person listening to the good news? Does Dreyfus’s uninterested reaction to her Press Secretary’s good news matter? Indeed, research has shown that how the person listening the news reacts can make a huge difference for the person sharing the news. The more the receiver of the news reacts with warmth, enthusiasm, excitement, and involvement, the more positive and satisfied with life the person sharing the news feels.
Furthermore, relationships themselves can also benefit when people respond enthusiastically to others’ good news. For example, couples who perceive that their partners generally respond to their good news with excitement and enthusiasm tend to report that they have better relationship quality, including greater trust, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction.
So, both sharing positive news and feeling that this news has been received warmly and enthusiastically by someone else can lead to additional benefits. Why would this process of capitalization have so many benefits? One reason may be that sharing the good news makes the event more memorable, making it easier to boost the positive impact of the event itself. Another reason may be that successfully sharing positive news with another person, particularly if it leads to an enthusiastic reaction, may increase trust and intimacy in that relationship.
Whether it’s with your partner, your best friend, or your family member, sharing your good news with others can bring all kinds of benefits even beyond the news itself. And if you have someone who will respond with a little more enthusiasm and interest than Dreyfus responds to her Press Secretary’s happy news on Veep, consider yourself even luckier.