2 Magic Ratios for Great Relationships

Math that makes sense for your relationships . . .

 The 1 : 3 Rule

Every time you interact with another human being one of three things happens.

  1. You feel closer to them
  2. You reinforce what you already feel
  3. You feel more distant

Yes. Every time.

Day in and day out, you are constantly shifting position on some internal ratings scale on your partner’s scorecard. On your kid’s score card. On your boss’s score card. Though in truth these 3 constituencies are each tracking and scoring different things.

Partners want to know “Are we securely attached? Does h/she still love me?”

Children want to know “Is my parent on my team? Am I lovable?”

The boss wants to know “Is this employee worth what I pay him/her?”

More or less anyway.

We humans are counters, quantifiers and score-keepers when we are together.

Evolutionarily speaking it helped us – Is this person safe? Really safe? Not so safe?

Today we’re less evaluating physical safety (though this can be present to a certain degree), but we are evaluating emotional safety. And the thing is, this calculator never gets turned off!

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 4.06.59 PMIf your spouse looks up in the morning when you come into the kitchen and smiles, or better yet gives you a big hug, they’ll get a point in your “I feel loved by this person” box.

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 4.09.04 PMIf they behave in a way that seems – to a neutral observer – to be neither particularly loving nor particularly unkind, you probably won’t bother to score them. No new points get added either for or against. This simply reinforces what you already feel.

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 4.11.03 PMIf, when you walk into the room, your partner walks out, or buries themselves in the newspaper, or gets busy with the social media so you feel excluded and unwelcome, then this person will get a point in your “I feel unloved and pushed away by this person” box.

Have you noticed this?

WHY THIS MATTERS

This matters because we live word by word. Look by look. Gesture by gesture.

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 7.58.26 AM

Relationships are built or destroyed moment by moment.

Not “in one moment” – don’t get me wrong. But by the accumulation of moments, recorded on your scorecard. The way the stalactites and stalagmites grow in caves – one drop at a time until they are sharp enough to pierce your heart.

Moving on to a money metaphor, every day you are doing one of these three things in your relationships:

  1. Depositing good feelings.
  2. Ignoring the bank account (whilst either paying bank fees or accruing interest)
  3. Withdrawing or subtracting good feelings.

If you keep on withdrawing – you go broke. This is not rocket science!

If you are not paying attention to the balance sheet, you’ll find yourself suddenly out of love. You’ll have squandered numerous small occasions where you could have made a deposit.

And, just like your bank, if you drop below a certain minimum balance you get charged bank fees and if you are above a certain threshold the bank pays you interest, it’s the same difference with our emotional scorecards.

Even if you are behaving “neutrally” (being neither nasty nor nice) your partner will “score” you depending upon whether you’ve met certain minimum standards. If you are typically seen as loving and supportive, even your neutral behaviors will get the benefit of the doubt. But if you are typically seen as distant and unsupportive, your neutral stance will be judged negatively. You could be draining your love bank unwittingly…

WHAT TO DO?

Forewarned is forearmed.

Be aware of how anything you say or do might be received. Which scorecard will get a point if you say what you want to say right now? Can you afford this?

If what you plan to say is more likely to be perceived negatively – you better keep on reading . . .

The 5 : 1 Rule

If you want great relationships, you need to keep the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions at a ratio of at least 5 positive to 1 negative.

Yup – negative interactions don’t immediately kill relationships.

You can slip up and be ~

  • Thoughtless
  • Unkind
  • Critical
  • Forgetful
  • Selfish
  • Defensive.

As long as you are also ~

  • Thoughtful
  • Kind
  • Supportive
  • Attentive
  • Generous
  • Responsible

 ~ five times more often,

And then, the odds will be ever in your favor.

Here’s John Gottman making this point –

For more about Dr. Gottman’s research, click here.

So, no more excuses.

If you want to build a great relationship with someone remember:

1:3 ~ Every time you interact with this person you are doing one of three things

  1. Building a stronger relationship
  2. Maintain status quo (which might be good or bad)
  3. Undermining what you’ve got with this person.

&

5:1 ~ You want to have 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative one.

In April I’ll be talking more about  how to connect with people – what makes an encounter positive rather than negative (beyond the obvious!).

That’s all for now folks.

NEXT WEEK?

“Why Under-standing is Over-rated”.

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the twelfth article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list →    →    →Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

 SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

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