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October 19, 2015


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The Power of Positive Interactions

John Gottman's pioneering research found that marriages are much more likely to succeed when the couple experiences a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions whereas when the ratio approaches 1 to 1, marriages are more likely to end in divorce. Additional research also shows that workgroups with positive to negative interaction ratios greater than 3 to 1 are significantly more productive than teams that do not reach this ratio.

So what does this mean for you and me? For most of us it means we need to increase the number of positive interactions we have at home and at work and reduce our negative interactions.

We need to engage each other with more smiles, kind words, encouragement, gratitude, meaningful conversations, honest dialogues and sincere positive interactions. And to foster these actions we need to create personal and team rituals that help us interact more positively. If we make them part of our organizational process and individual habits they are more likely to happen.

For instance, at home you might decide to take a walk with your spouse each night after dinner and talk about the positive things that happened at work. The more you practice this the more it will become ingrained in your life. At work you might make it a point to smile at your co-workers and customers more often. As a manager you would spend more time praising your employees for the things they do right rather than always focusing on what everyone is doing wrong. A manager I know makes it a point to personally praise 5 people every week. As an organization you might gather all of your employees on a call once a day to share a positive message. Or perhaps you might gather your sales team together each week and have your team members share success stories. The ideas are infinite. The key is to intentionally cultivate more positive interactions to fuel success.

However, please know that this doesn't mean we should never have negative interactions. Barbara Fredrickson’s research from the University of Michigan shows if a work group in a company experiences a positive to negative interaction ratio of 13 to 1 the work group will be less effective. This implies that no one is willing to confront the real problems and challenges that are holding them back.

Sometimes we need to confront a situation to move past it and, as we know, ignoring problems that stare us in the face doesn't work. Negative interactions are necessary so long as they should occur much less frequently than positive interactions.

Positive interactions are essential to a healthy marriage, positive work environment and individual and team success. In this spirit when you are finished reading this, I encourage you to go thank someone at work or at home and let them know how they impacted your life in a positive way. Then make it a habit.



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