Zachary White Ph.D.

When Care Meets Love

The Challenges (and Benefits) of Sharing Good News

(Not) sharing "good" news shapes our reality and our relationships.

Posted Jan 20, 2020

In the midst of your daily routine with your loved one, something different happened. A moment that surprised you and spoke to you without a word uttered.  

You and your loved one exchanged a shared smile.

That shared smile mattered because you felt its impact well beyond that moment. That one fleeting moment made your day. It made you feel closer to your loved one. And it reminded you why you do what you do.

You reach for your phone to call your spouse or friend to share your good news. You want them to know that what you felt in that moment with your loved was special.

Asya Cusima/Pexel.
Two women smiling.
Source: Asya Cusima/Pexel.

As you attempt to share your good news, others’ responses came at you in ways you didn’t expect...

“Yeah, but it doesn’t mean he is getting better.” 

“Why did you text this to me at work?  I’m not sure why you think that was so special?”

“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating.  I mean, are you sure it was a smile?”

The very moment that you desperately wanted others to appreciate was met with something other than what you expected. Your news lingered. It was left alone. Unattended to. Overlooked. Minimized. Ignored.

Breaking bad news receives so much attention because we know that communicating difficult truths is challenging and uncomfortable, especially in formalized health settings.

Yet, not being able to authentically share good news with family, friends, and work colleagues can be devastating because it defies our expectations and changes how we think about the people around us.

If they can’t celebrate good moments with me, then what can they appreciate?

If they don’t appreciate how important this moment was to me, then do they really know who I am?

If they can’t acknowledge the importance of what I’ve just told them, then are they really my friends?

When our good news is met with disbelief, silence, neglect, or even rejection, others’ responses don’t just change our perceptions of the people around us.  

Others’ lack of responses can make us feel confused and disconnected from our own experiences in ways that distort our reality.    

When our news isn’t acknowledged or appreciated, the good of our experiences is much more likely to be overlooked and underappreciated—by us.  We can’t help ourselves from being keenly aware of what (doesn’t) move our audiences. If our positive news is underappreciated by others, we are less likely to identify and remember the good of our experiences. The good that we experience doesn’t disappear, but the way we interpret these moments changes in subtle but powerful ways.

We may see the shared smile with our loved one but no longer consider it worthy of sharing.

And not sharing the good of our experiences has consequences. The shared smile may be seen but not remembered because we aren’t allowed the privilege of elaborating on what it means to us and how it makes us think about our care experiences in profound ways. 

Caregivers, in particular, are challenged when it comes to sharing good news because of others’ limited notions of caregiving. And yet, to continue caring, we must find outlets for the redemptive aspects of our experiences.

When we share good news, something more is gained than the mere relaying of the news itself. The collective acknowledgment of your good news creates bonds of intimacy that deepen relationships. Knowing that others are seeing and noticing and commenting on your reality reminds you that you are surrounded by those willing and able to participate in legitimizing how you are making sense of caregiving.

Sharing good news also impacts how we feel about those around us. People who honor and acknowledge our good news signal that they are open to being shaped by our interpretation of experiences.

“That is so beautiful. Tell me more about how that shared moment made you feel about yourself and your loved one?”

“I am so happy that you were close enough to notice that privileged moment of connection.”

Here, intimacy is created that transcends the sharing of mere information. Your good news is no longer yours. It’s no longer theirs. This kind of collective intimacy makes it possible for us to know that the breadth of what we are experiencing—the good and bad—is not just a reporting of what is happening, but a reminder that, though others may not be physically with us, they are always co-authors shaping what we see and notice and appreciate in ways that can sustain us during the most difficult parts of our experiences.

References

Gable, S., Impett, E., Reis, H., & Asher, E. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228-245.

Villagran, M., Goldsmith, J., Wittenberg-Lyles, E., & Baldwin, P. (2010). Creating COMFORT: A Communication-based model for breaking bad news. Communication Education, 59, 220-234

Sparks, L., Villagran, M., Parker-Raley, J., & Cunningham, C. (2007).  A patient-centered approach to breaking bad news: Communication guidelines for health care providers. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35, 177-196. 

Thomson, D. & White, Z. (2019).  The unexpected journey of caring: The transformation from loved one to caregiver. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield