We can’t be happy and upbeat all the time, though we know our thoughts and emotions affect our relationships, work, health and life. Trying to focus on the silver lining in cloudy situations is not always easy, and research in affective science and positive psychology reveals that this inauthentic approach also fails to serve us. Luckily, there’s a magic formula.
Scientific evidence, offered by world renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, reveals that maintaining a 3:1 positivity ratio of positive thoughts to negative emotions creates a tipping point between languishing and flourishing.
This works in the same manner that making three monetary deposits and taking one withdrawal (of equal proportionate value) leaves us with a surplus in our bank account. Our fulfillment account in the bank of success and satisfaction must be approached just as mindfully and cautiously. The following are five ways to apply the 3:1 positivity ratio in interpersonal interactions:
- In a given day, week or month, if you chastise or reprimand a colleague, look for 3 meaningful opportunities to praise or acknowledge that person.
- If you come home after a long day of work and bark at your spouse for a sink filled with dishes, put just as much passion into thanking them for taking out the trash, cooking dinner and helping the kids with homework.
- Should you lash out at your client for failing to pay or provide you with important information, return to them at a later time with gratitude for an opportunity, a referral, and a positive and productive exchange.
- When you mark up a document with a huge mistake a subordinate made, highlight three areas where they made your team or firm look great.
- When you multitask and fail to attentively listen to your co-worker, client, friend or family member, give yourself the assignment of listening and fully focusing the next three times they seek your advice or attention.
The point here is not to make light of negative situations, but to fill our interactions with more positive than negative thoughts, emotions, words and actions. Not only will we improve those important personal and professional relationships, but we’ll also be reinforcing the type of behavior we want to experience more from ourselves and others. There’s the added advantage of feeling more happy and less annoyed, too, and ridding ourselves of the guilt associated for being constantly crabby. If that’s not enough to convince us to apply the 3:1 positivity ratio to interpersonal communication, the overabundance of research on health benefits this formula produces in relieving stress, anxiety and depression might do the trick.
Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying presentations and programs — focused on communication, collaboration and innovation — to your firm or organization.
Find her latest book Successful (Happy) Lawyering on
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