Build Positive Interactions with the 5:1 Rule in Business and in Life

Why are there papers all over the place?

You are so selfish.

You should learn to dress nicer.

Your presentation style kinda sucks.

Your crazy for thinking that.

At this point, you've racked up 5 negative interactions. According to Dr. John Gottman from The Gottman Institute, it would take about 25 positive interactions to neutralize the negative emotions associated with the negative comments that were made. That's a lot of positive interactions.



Using the principle of 1N=5P (1 negative interaction = 5 positive interaction) Dr. Gottman was able to predict with 90% accuracy who would be divorced in 9 years. To do this, he sat a married couple in a room and asked them to resolve an issue in 15 minutes, then he watched as they interacted with each other. He discovered that when the ratio was more like 1:1 that the couple was nearing the edge of divorce.

I absolutely love the parallels between marital relationships and team dynamics. Think about it! How true is this principle in business when building team loyalty?

Let's say an airline loses my luggage (cuz that never happens). Losing my luggage = 1N. The airline is going to do everything they can to make this situation better. They may call, or try to deliver the luggage to wherever I am so I don't have to go out of my way to pick it up myself. They'll apologize. They may even give me some kind of voucher for my next trip, etc.

The point is, after just an apology, we aren't going to be made whole. Even after they drive my luggage to my location, I wouldn't be made whole. It's going to take quite a bit of effort to cause me to trust them again. Like, 5 different things? Yeah, that's a good number.

How many positive vs. negative interactions are you having with your employees or boss? When bad stuff happens, make sure you address it in a positive way. Don't bash people or try to make sure the world knows how ridiculous the person is for making that negative comment. Make your response short and positive.



There are 5 different actions that push couples to divorce. The first 4 are what Gottman calls The Four Horsemen, and they will bring an end to your marriage if not fixed. Think about these as they related to organization and how you interact with your clients.

1. Criticism attacks the character of the other person and paves the way for the other negative actions.

2. Contempt has a goal of making people feel worthless by using mocking them, using sarcasm, or eye-rolling. Contempt is the leading indicator of divorce. Get rid of it in all aspects of business and life.

3. Defensiveness is easy to feel when someone attacks us. We read a performance review, and it's on! We immediately get on there and defend ourselves and make the other person seem incompetent or crazy. Gottman says, "Defensiveness will only escalate the conflict if the critical spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner, and it won’t allow for healthy conflict management."

4. Stonewalling is the act of shutting down and not responding. It's rationale that after receiving a lot of negativity, people want to protect themselves or just try to ignore those interactions. The problem is that it's easy for stonewalling to become a bad habit. If you need a break, take one. Then come back and address the issue.

5. Loneliness or isolation is the last action that leads to divorce and you do not want this in business or in life. Anger by itself doesn't necessarily lead to divorce. Gottman adds, “anger only has negative effects in marriage if it is expressed along with criticism or contempt, or if it is defensive.”



Now, what can you do to combat these negative interactions? Here are 5 interactions that will bring on the love.

1. Be interested. Add verbal and visual cues to show you're listening. This goes a long way when someone feels they've been wronged.

2. Empathize. Empathy is one of the deepest forms of human interaction. Empathy not only helps the other person feel heard, it helps them feel understood.

3. Show them they matter. It's the small things that go a long way. Go out of your way to do something thoughtful. Create a small element of surprise in the things you do. This will help you be memorable and bring a smile to the face of your team.

4. Intentional appreciation. Show and verbalize how appreciative you are for the other person. Don't take them for granted!

5. Respect their perspective. I'm sure this is tough, especially when we are the one that's right! (Because we're always right, right?) Differing perspectives is what life is all about. That's how we learn to be better. Even if you don't necessarily agree with the other person's perspective, validating it and respecting that it's there can go a long way.



For the next week, note the positive and negative interactions you have with your team.

Is the ratio in your favor?

Are you having at least 5 positive interactions to every negative one?

If not, then it's time to get some counseling from a corporate communication therapist. (Yeah, I made up that title for myself.) Branding is more than a logo. Build strong relationships and your personal brand will flourish.



You can create a culture of empowerment and liberation through better communication and alignment. We call these invincible teams. Make your team invincible through a data-driven approach that is used by Google, the CDC, the Air Force, Pfizer, and Chick-fil-A. Click here or the image below to learn more.

Create an invincible team