The Power of Positive Interactions


Dr. John Gottman studied the effect of positive and negative interactions in marriage. He determined that the “magic ratio” of positive-to-negative is 5:1: Five positive comments for every negative comment. Gottman and his colleagues observed the interactions of 700 newlywed couples scoring their positive and negative interactions in one 15-minute conversation. The researchers predicted which couples would divorce based upon the resulting scores. Ten years later, the follow-up revealed that they had predicted divorce with 94 percent accuracy.

positive meter

Check your meter. How is your positive to negative ratio with your spouse, children, and your other close relationships? A ratio that is below 5:1 puts you in the danger zone for that relationship.

How powerful are positive interactions?

Lets look at a parable of a woman named Jenny who was struggling in her marriage. She had been very deeply wounded and she had a single desire for the outcome of their divorce. To make her husband hurt in the divorce the way she had hurt in the marriage. Jenny told a friend who was a counselor about the situation and asked her how to maximize the pain her husband would feel when they divorced. Her friend advised her to treat him like you are deeply in love with him for the next two months. Praise him for any positive quality and encourage him every time you can. Then when you divorce him it will hurt him deeply.

Several weeks later when Jenny saw her counselor friend, her friend asked if Jenny had divorced her husband. With a surprised look on her face she replied, “Why would I want to divorce the best husband in the world?”

Practical steps to reaching the “magic ratio.” Each day for the next three to four weeks, think of five positive qualities in your spouse, child, or friend. Try to think of five different qualities each day and focus more on character qualities rather than performance or appearance. Give affirmation and express appreciation for at least one of the positive qualities every day.