Aim for a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions

What holds a great team together despite inevitable conflict?

John Gottman has some answers. John has been studying married couples for decades. Work relationships are not marriages but the same concepts can be incredibly useful to leaders of high-performance teams.

One of the highlights of John’s work, that resonated with me when I first read it and continues to resurface for me often, is the concept of The Magic Ratio which states: 

for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy relationship has five (or more) positive interactions

How is that relevant?

First of all, by taking care to load up our emotional bank accounts we can create a sense of psychological safety and trust that makes it much easier to de-escalate and look for solutions when conflicts occur.

Second of all, people’s brains are wired to react more strongly to threats than to rewards, so even a “balanced” 1:1 situation is not enough for safe & satisfying collaboration.

And on top of that, as mentioned in the previous installment, amplifying the good parts tends to work better than fixating on problems, weaknesses and deficiencies.

How can we add positive interactions?

  1. express honest & meaningful appreciation
  2. listen respectfuly & attentively
  3. keep a promise or renegotiate early when you can’t
  4. do things together
  5. highlight things you agree with
  6. make work more meaningful by connecting it to the bigger picture

What is the current ratio on your team?

What can you going to nudge it in the right direction?