New research on work and life
In life, in relationships, in business, in play, new research revealed by Harvard University in its HBR blog shows that top performing teams give each other five—actually, 5.6—positive comments for every criticism.
The research looked at 60 strategic-business-unit leadership teams, measuring their effectiveness in financial performance, customer satisfaction ratings, and 360-degree feedback ratings of the team members.
Positive comments include things like “I agree with that,” and “That’s a terrific idea”, whereas negative comments included “I don’t agree with you”, “We shouldn’t even consider doing that”, and sarcastic or disparaging remarks. While we don’t necessarily agree that disagreement should be contstrued as positive or negative when presented appropriately, we understand why researchers chose to assign value to those statements.
The researchers argue that negative feedback is important because it grabs attention, guards against complacency, and helps leaders overcome serious weaknesses. On the other hand, positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.
HBR notes that “Heaply and Losada’s research is echoed in an uncanny way by John Gottman’s analysis of wedded couples’ likelihood of getting divorced or remaining married. Once again, the single biggest determinant is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another. And the optimal ratio is amazingly similar — five positive comments for every negative one.”
In work and life, we can all be more successful if we endeavor to move our positive to negative proportion closer to the ideal of 5.6 to 1. In our own self-talk, in our pursuit of happiness, and in relation to others, we need a (sometimes infrequent) negative push surrounded by positive motivation.