When it comes to those who really love and support you, one of the ways you can show them you love them back is through appreciation. You already know that what you appreciate, appreciates and it’s just as true in relationships.
John Gottman is probably the world’s leading expert on relationships and he can predict with 94% accuracy whether or not a couple will stay together by watching their interaction for just 5 minutes! That’s a pretty cool trick. What does he look for? Gottman calls them bids for affection. A couple might be sitting at a table and the wife says to the husband, “I read in the paper today that they expect gas prices to go up in a few months.” This is a simple bid for affection. The husband has 3 choices in how he responds.
- He can respond by engaging in a conversation with his wife by saying something like, “Oh really? Did they say what they think will be driving the price up?” This is a positive response. It says to the wife, I accept your bid and I’m bidding back.
- The husband can also respond in another way, saying something like, “Don’t believe everything you read in the paper!” The response to the wife’s bid is negative. The husband still accepts the bid even though his bid back isn’t so nice.
- Or he can choose not to respond at all. He ignores the bid completely.
Which of these responses do you think John Gottman looks for when he is predicting divorce? For some people they would guess the negative response as it’s not very productive for the relationship and can cause tension. But actually it’s the “no response” that predicts the divorce. When someone ignores our bids, it’s the most harmful. For a relationship to really work, a couple must have at least 5 positive interactions to every one negative interaction. And it’s best to eliminate the “no responses” all together.
It’s also interesting to note that this ratio exists in a work situation as well. A manager must be praising the staff 5 times more often then he/she corrects the staff. Unfortunately, most of the time we see the opposite is true. A lot of managers criticise and correct way more often than they praise.
This week’s happiness challenge is to start working on getting your ratio of appreciation up to 5/1. It’s not about keeping score. You aren’t measuring how many time you show appreciation versus how often the other person does. You’re just measuring yourself. How often to you show gratitude, say thank you, appreciate, praise or affirm other people in your life? And how often do you correct, discipline, argue with or put down those same people? Be careful with how you measure. It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you told your spouse how to do something because “you were just trying to help.” Stop and ask yourself, was that really helpful to him/her? Or were you correcting them so they did it the “right” way? My husband loves to correct the way I cook. It isn’t helpful feedback in my mind. It’s criticism and picking at me just to show me who’s in charge when it comes to cooking.
So, be honest and start to measure and NOTICE what happens. I think you’ll find that the better your ratio is the more your relationships will be showered with love.
To your happiness,