Freudenfreude Might Be Just What Your Friendships Are Missing – Lifotravel

Schadenfreude, the German word used to describe the pleasure you derive from another person’s misfortune, has a new, considerably more good-natured sibling: Meet freudenfreude.

As The New York Times reported in November, freudenfreude is a term made up by social scientists to describe the joy (freuden means joy in German) you feel when someone else is prospering, even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on you.

Some have noted that the term was coined by non-German speakers and isn’t very German-like on the whole. “Germans are generally not in the habit of showing happiness at another person’s happiness,” one German translator glumly told Slate. But Germanic or not Germanic, cultivating a sense of freudenfreude ― or letting yourself feel vicarious joy for others ― could benefit your friendships greatly, according to Catherine Chambliss, a professor of psychology at Ursinus College and the author of “Empathy Rules: Depression, Schadenfreude and Freudenfreude.”

To test your sense of freudenfreude, think back on the last time your friend shared some big, positive personal news with you: “I’ve landed my dream job with that one creative agency I’m always talking about!” or “My S.O. popped the question while we were in Paris!”

Did you? A.) Celebrate the personal win with them. Or? B.) Try to fight back a gnawing, unexpected feeling of jealousy.

If it was the latter, that’s natural. Drawing comparisons between ourselves and others ― especially those in our peer group ― is “kind of our default mode” as humans, Chambliss told HuffPost.

She said that comparison is a big part of how our brain judges reality, but we can learn to use this process more productively, especially within our friendships.

“Instead of feeling crushed when we discover others have arrived at some desirable destination first, we can be grateful they helped to define the path for us,” Chambliss said.

“We can access a greater amount of happiness when we are willing to partake in others joy.”

– Catherine Chambliss, a professor of psychology at Ursinus College and a friendship expert

Those close to us “inform us about what is missing from our lives, whether it’s a pal’s promotion, a sister’s Shih Tzu, or a roommate’s rapture with a new romance,” Chambliss said.

She pointed to an anecdote from her own life as an example.

“Years ago, a friend’s trip to Paris sparked a surprisingly high amount of envy, which clued me into the fact that I yearned to see the City of Lights; I had previously been oblivious to this,” she said. “Asking to hear absolutely everything about her adventure brightened both of our days and left me eagerly pursuing a new, exciting plan of action.”

And there’s another benefit that comes with celebrating your friends’ triumphs: Stronger, more supportive friendships, said Marisa G. Franco, a psychologist and friendship expert.

“There’s a theory called capitalization theory: It’s the idea that when we share our joy, our joy increases,” she said. “And when we share our joy, it increases our satisfaction in our relationship when someone responds positively. All of it deepens our joys.”

Research shows how people respond to your joy is even more important for our satisfaction in the relationship than how people respond to our moments of suffering, according to Franco.

“We don’t realize how important it is to show up in those moments,” she said. “It’s a very important form of love ― that people show up for our joy and take part in our joy.”

Feeling vicarious joy means that happiness isn’t finite: “We can access a greater amount of happiness when we are willing to partake in others’ joy,” Franco said.

Now that you know the benefits of freudenfreude, here’s how to cultivate more of it in your life.

Say to yourself: “Right now, I can choose to emphasize competition or caring in this relationship. If I pick caring, we will both win.”

By consciously choosing to focus on strengthening relationships by suppressing competitive tendencies, we can bring others and ourselves greater joy, Chambliss said.

“Humans have evolved tandem tendencies to compete and care,” she added. “We also have the power to choose which impulse dominates our exchanges with others.”

Look for moments when your friend is sharing an accomplishment and take a pause.

Getting better at sharing in our friends’ joy takes practice. For starters, we need to be aware when a friend is sharing their joy with us. If they’re humble, they may be quick to move on to the next subject, but it’s your job as a good friend to revisit that win.

“How our friend responds to our joy is a moment we are going to remember when we reflect on our friendships growing,” she said. “Register your friend’s joy. Look for moments when your friend is showing joy and then pause and keep the focus on them.”

That also means not turning the conversation back to yourself, even if it’s in an attempt to relate. It may come across as one-upmanship, even if that’s not your intention.

“Don’t say, ‘Oh, you just got a promotion? Oh, I just got a promotion, too!’” Franco warned.

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SolStock via Getty Images

Celebrating friends’ triumphs can help motivate us to work harder in service of our own ambitions.

Remember: You benefit from this, too.

As we mentioned earlier, celebrating friends’ triumphs can help motivate us to work harder in service of our own ambitions.

One way to experience less jealousy ― and to foster freudenfreude ― is to practice enlightened self-interest, said Anja Stadelmann Wright, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, California.

Enlightened self-interest doesn’t require you to act out of pure altruism, rather, it comes from the recognition that if your family, friends, or community are doing well, you too will be better off,” Stadelmann Wright explained.

That’s especially true if you and your friend work in the same industry or share the same interests.

“If you work in the same field, it’s ultimately better for your friend to get the job than a stranger because if she does well, her connections could benefit you,” Stadelmann Wright said.

“Our culture is so individualistic oriented that often we don’t recognize how important it is for our personal wellbeing to live in a healthy social ecosystem,” she said.

Plan something to celebrate your friend’s wins.

If you’re not great at expressing yourself or struggling with expressing freudenfreude, show your friend you’re proud of them by planning something celebratory.

“Wish this person well, even if you’re not feeling it yet,” said Glenda D. Shaw, the author of “Better You, Better Friends: A Whole New Approach to Friendship.” “If it’s a big deal, offer to take them to dinner or help organize a party.”

Become part of the process to celebrate their success: “If you feel part of their success, then you’re more likely to feel the glow of their achievement,” Shaw said.

Plan a party to celebrate your friend's personal win. “If you feel part of their success, then you’re more likely to feel the glow of their achievement,” Shaw said.

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

Plan a party to celebrate your friend’s personal win. “If you feel part of their success, then you’re more likely to feel the glow of their achievement,” Shaw said.

Missed a chance to celebrate your friend’s success? Reach back out.

The pressure to celebrate your friend doesn’t have to be in the moment. If you jumped to another topic during the conversation or missed the moment, you can send a follow-up text or check in about it.

Franco suggests sending something like: “I know you mentioned that you were having a baby, and I realize I just kind of moved on to the next thing. I just want to make sure I return back and share with you how excited I am for you and how great a mom I think you’ll be.”

Take time to celebrate your wins, too.

Freudenfreude is a two-way street! So be sure to find ways to include your friends in your honors and wins, too.

“When you have a big success, it’s important to embrace your own friends, to honor their value in your life; to recognize their insights and their support,” Shaw said. “By acknowledging your friends, you include them in your success, and that’s what this is all about.”


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