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Negativity Outweighs Positivity but How Much Positivity Is Actually Needed to Equalize the Two?

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Walking out of a Starbucks in my suburban hometown, my hands were full carrying the Coffee & Frappuccino. The door opened up from someone walking in (with perfect timing I might add). They walked in first, but strangely, they didn’t hold the door open, I tried to do the stop the door trick with my foot. I managed it okay, but man, I was pissed.

My thoughts raced, “what did I do to deserve that? Did that person dislike me or even know me? What a jerk, how inconsiderate!” This simple everyday encounter bothered me quite frankly for the rest of the day. I became infected with negativity; my own reaction to this incident soured my mood and negatively affected my interactions with others.

That’s the power of a negative interaction! If this incident was different and the unknown person had held the door, the “thank you” would have followed and it would have felt good. However, in a matter of a few minutes, that positive feeling would have worn off.

Negative interactions carry much more weight than positive experiences. That’s one reason why it is easier to criticize than it is to compliment.

Compliment people. Magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses.” – Joyce Meyer

So, how much positivity is actually needed to offset the negative?

Dr. John Gottman’s research examined successful and unsuccessful marriages. He completed over twelve longitudinal studies and examined 3,000 couples, even following one couple for over 20 years. He eventually predicted marriages which would end in divorce with over 90% accuracy.

The ratio for positive to negative interactions for successful marriages was 5:1. Five positive experiences were needed for every one negative experience. Keep in mind this ratio was from our most sacred relationships, the one’s that we have invested in the most. On the other hand, unsuccessful couples had a 0.8 – 1 positive to negative ratio for experiences.

Negative experiences simply carry greater weight than positive experiences. It’s why we remember the bad more than the good. A put-down of a spouse in front of others is much more hurtful than the warm feeling of a “nice shirt honey” compliment. The bad outweighs the good, and it takes much more effort to correct a hurt.

If we are not positive with others in a 5:1 ratio, then a strange boomerang effect takes place in which we then become negative with ourselves. We give away what we possess in our mood, and if we give away our own negativity, then the negative spiral of negativity take place.

“If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.” – Guy Finley

The simplest way to become positive with ourselves is to be positive to others. If we are able to adopt the 5:1 principle with others, then we help ourselves as well as others. No one can help someone else without also helping themselves. Positivity must be deliberate. Set a goal to provide five positive comments, feedback, or interactions to every one negative encounter.

How do you make sure to positively impact others day? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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