Although Gottman's research was specific to marital relationships, I would guess that this ratio works with all different types of relationships - parents, children, friends, colleagues...you name it. So it makes sense that we need to pump up the positive and keep an eye on the negative in order to have strong and healthy connections with each other. Of course, that's not to say you should squash down important feelings or accept unacceptable treatment from others. But there are a few practices that can help you keep your ratio in check:
1. At the moment you get triggered to nag, snap, argue, or make a snarky comment, take a moment to consider a few questions: Is this worth the effort it will take to make up for it? Is it important enough that I need to take a stand? If I don't address this now, will it fester inside of me or can I just take a breath and let it go?
2. Catch them doing good...and let them know. When you notice someone in your life doing something praiseworthy, don't just file it away in your memory bank. A word of thanks, a pat on the back, or, best yet, an observation about how that action reflects on him or her as a person can go a long way in keeping your ratio right.
3. Look for out-of-the-blue opportunities to practice positivity. Simply being mindful of when you can slip in moments of kindness and connection can make a big difference. It could be a smile across the room, a hug for no reason, a text to say "I love you." or "I'm thinking about you." or countless other quick, easy, impactful positive acts.
So, with this in mind, here's your challenge for the weekend - pick one significant relationship in your life and make an effort to keep your interractions to at least 5 positive ones to every negative one. It could be interesting to find out how easy or hard it is and whether or not it makes a difference in your relationship. Give it a try!