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The Magic Relationship Ratio

I’d like to share an important statistic with you. The extensive research of Dr. John Gottman, a psychotherapist, world reknowned for his work on relationship stability, has revealed what is coined as “the magic relationship ratio.”

5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions

In relationships that work, there are five times as many positive things going on as negative things. (You can read Gottman’s books or check out his YouTube videos to learn more about his research).

Here’s why this matters to me. There is a lot of negativity in our workplaces. Nearly every team I work with or leader I coach is dealing with the effects of negativity in their workplace, from grumbling employees to unhappy customers to even his/her own attitude or outlook. The negativity is unproductive, contagious, and literally bad for our health.

Unproductive – Negativity reduces enthusiasm, decreases creativity and disrupts communication. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that US companies lose $3 billion per year, due to the impact of negativity on performance!

Contagious – they’re called mirror neurons and we all have them. It’s the stuff in our brains that allows us to feel empathy for others or to automatically smile when we see someone else smiling or laughing. Negative emotional states are transmittable through our mirror neurons.

Unhealthy – There is much evidence that negativity and a negative emotional state contribute to poor health. Probably the most common connection between negativity and health is its impact on our immune functioning. Persistent negativity reduces immune function and can leave us more susceptible to illness.

Think about Gottman’s statistic for a minute: Five positive interactions to overcome or to make up for ONE negative interaction. That’s well beyond a one-to-one ratio. Gottman says that negativity has a greater ability to inflict pain and to damage a relationship than positivity does to promote healing and closeness in a relationship. Therefore, the equation is not balanced. Couple that with what we know about the many constructive, morale-boosting impacts from affirmative interactions*, and we can see the need to take positivity more seriously. It is a leadership imperative and desperately needed now.

*Read my past articles on related topics to learn more:

Focus Forward

Optimists Make Better Leaders

So, how about we plunge in together? I’ve set a personal goal to meet or exceed 5:1 in all my important relationships everyday.

I’ve set up a forum on our Essential Shift facebook page called “5:1 Positivity Movement.” There are some thoughts there to get you started. Then, please, use that forum to share your experiences, successes, and challenges with 5:1.
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De Yarrison

De is a certified professional Coach, Teambuilder and Facilitator of positive change. She is an adventurer in the world of relationships, blazing new trails of positive expression, resulting in happier leaders, employees, workplaces (and families).
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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I love the 5:1 goal. And to be honest, I’m not finding it that easy! I’ll head over to your forum to look for some ways to increase my ratio of positive to negative interactions.

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