Plays Well with Others

Many of my clients are interested in simple fixes that can enhance their interactions at home and at work.

They’re looking for small behavioral changes with a big pay off:

  • Warmer, more appreciative interactions with family
  • Teams that work productively without a lot of drama
  • Staff who are engaged and motivated to do their best work

What if I told you there’s a simple fix that not only improves the quality of relationships but has also been proven to enhance the bottom line? It’s not a magic bullet, but there might be a ripple effect of positive results if you pay attention to this one thing.

Let’s start at home:  Relationship researcher John Gottman can predict with 94% accuracy the likelihood of married couples getting divorced or remaining married—just by watching a videotape of  the couple in the first few moments of a “fraught” conversation. How can he tell? More in a minute.

In the workplace: In one of the most extensive studies of the connection between team interaction and business performance, Losada and Heaphy in 2004 found that teams with more of certain kinds of interactions had the highest business performance. By a long shot.

What makes the difference? Well, in both examples it has to do with the ratio of positive to negative comments. In Gottman’s research, the magic formula is 5 to 1. In Losada and Heaphy’s, it’s 7 to 1.

The exact ratio probably isn’t as important as the awareness. All too often we’re on autopilot, unaware of the cumulative impact of our communication.  We’ve fallen into habitual patters of interaction:

  • Criticism or judgment
  • One-upsmanship or competitive banter
  • “Harmless” sarcasm
  • Directives and advice giving

While some of those kinds of interactions are tolerable and even warranted, being mindful of the balance of positive to negative is key. Next time you get ready to make a comment, pause to think about which part of that ratio you’re contributing to.

Based on the research, here are some clues about what makes a comment positive or negative: