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How The 5:1 Rule Improves Relationships

In relationships, positive and negative feedback have their place. According to studies conducted among married couples, the positive comments seem to outweigh the criticisms in the ratio 5:1. In other words, couples in healthy marriages share around 5 positive comments to every negative comment.

According to research by John Gottman, consistent criticism is a reliable predictor of divorce. Gottman highlights the importance of couples focusing on each others’ positive traits.

But what do you do when your partner’s behavior is intolerable and needs to change?

Should you follow a technique like the sandwich method? Give them positive feedback first, followed by negative feedback and cushion the effects of your criticism with another positive comment?

Not at all. Using techniques can make your comments seem not genuine. A better option is to build a culture of positivity.

Here is an alternative option to follow with regards to giving feedback (and withholding criticisms):

Understand the positive power or praise.

Use Positive Feedback To Reinforce Positive Behavior

When your partner shows you love in your particular love language, heap them with praise.

In the research involving married couples, their communication style was a strong predictor of whether the relationship would survive or end. Couples who ended up divorced shared on average 4 negative comments for every 3 positive comments.

In leadership studies, it has been observed that the most successful leaders offer 5:6 positive comments for every 1 negative comment. In other words, their positive feedback far outweighs the negative criticism.

Find things in people that are worthy of praise and acknowledgment.

Use Negative Feedback Sparingly In Relationships

Save your harsh criticisms for when things are really bad. When someone is on the edge of a cliff, a strong and harsh warning is acceptable to pull them back.

Praising your partner and highlighting their winning attributes builds trust in the relationship.

Criticizing and pointing out their faults has the opposite effect. It brings up their defensive walls and closes down communication. As a result, the conflict gets worse.

How then should you give your partner necessary feedback to point out their blind spots? Keep in mind that your partner’s growth and development is not your responsibility. Allow them to notice their own weaknesses and decide for themselves how they will change. Your role is to be supportive and encourage them.

There are occasions when a harsh comment or feedback is necessary. When you make an unusually negative remark, your partner will pay attention and is more likely to change their offensive behavior.

Keep in mind that this is not a system to excuse poor control of your temper. The point of this exercise is not for you to count the number of times you are positive and then slash out at your partner after making five positive comments.

The 5:1 ratio is about developing a culture of positivity, praise and encouragement in your relationships.

The 5:1 ratio has strong implications in the workplace too. A research study found that when leaders directed their focus on the positive aspects of their and others work, they were as much as 37% more productive.

Be a better partner. Be a better leader.

Sheevaun Moran is a business advisor, master coach, quantum energy thought leader and the founder of Energetic Solutions. She uses business principles with energetic techniques to help more than 25,000 entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders bring instant focus and shifts to clarity, purpose, and profits.


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