The compliment yardstick

The fastest way to ensure failure at an existing or new relationship is to make a positive comment for every negative mention. But what happened to the rule of balancing encouragement with constructive criticism!? Until recently, I thought this combination created the perfect mixture for healthy and lasting unions in our personal and work lives, but a recent reading has convinced me otherwise. Upon further introspection, I was able to recount several situations where I had experienced disastrous exchanges using the “say something nice for every bad thing” formula.

Surprising catch

As it turns out, some studies have shown that a 1:1 ratio of negative to positive remarks is a sure-fire way to end or severely damage productive communications between people. This applies to everything from spouses to work associates. A much healthier ratio to ensure an enduring relationship is closer to 1:5 negative to positive interactions, which is far fewer than most of us ever even get close. Granted, fleeting flattery doesn’t count as a meaningful compliment, which means the words must be sincere.

I’ve been thinking about using criticism counting as a way to keep the ratio in check. This means I’m on the hook for 5 positives for each and every disapproving statement spilling out of my mouth, which means the criticisms will go down or the positives will go up. In either case, trying to measure up to this compliment yardstick will take some work.

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