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The Magic Ratio of Positive and Negative Moments|
Copyright © 2004, Patsi Krakoff
According to the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman,
each day we experience approximately 20,000 moments. A moment
is defined as a few seconds in which our brain records an
experience. The quality of our days is determined by how our
brains recognize and categorize our moments—either as positive,
negative, or just neutral. Rarely do we remember neutral moments.
There is no question that the memories of our lives are recorded
in terms of positive and negative experiences. Now scientists
propose that each day our brains—i.e., our thoughts and
emotions—keep track of our positive and negative moments,
and the resulting score contributes to our overall mood.
Our emotional tone or mood is defined by the number of positive
versus negative moments experienced during the course of a day.
This is not really news to those people who study emotional
intelligence and how the brain works. Yet it has major
implications for how we can improve the quality of our lives.
The Magic Ratio
Over the past decade, scientists have explored the impact of
positive-to-negative interaction ratios in our work and personal
life. They have found that this ratio can be used to predict—with
remarkable accuracy—everything from workplace performance to
This work began with noted psychologist John Gottman's
exploration of positive-to-negative ratios in marriages. Using
a 5:1 ratio, which Gottman dubbed "the magic ratio," he and his
colleagues predicted whether 700 newlywed couples would stay
together or divorce by scoring their positive and negative
interactions in one 15-minute conversation between each husband
and wife. Ten years later, the follow-up revealed that they had
predicted divorce with 94 percent accuracy.
The Bucket and the Dipper
In a recent book "How Full is Your Bucket", psychologists
Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath propose a metaphor of looking
at positive and negative interactions during the day. Imagine
we all have a bucket within us that needs to be filled with
positive experiences, such as recognition or praise. When we're
negative toward others, we use a dipper to remove from their
buckets and diminish their positive outlook. When we treat
others in a positive manner, we fill not only their buckets
but ours as well.
Here are 5 strategies from these authors for increasing your
magic ratio of positive to negative moments in any given day:
· Prevent "Bucket Dipping." Increase your own awareness of how
often your comments are negative. Work toward a ratio of five
positive comments to every one negative comment.
· Shine a Light on What Is Right. Try focusing on what
employees or peers do right rather than where they need
improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good
· Make Best Friends. People with best friends at work have
better safety records, receive higher customer satisfaction
scores, and increase workplace productivity.
· Give Unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast
majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.
· Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of "Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you," you should "Do unto others as
they would have you do unto them." Individualization is key
when filling others' buckets.
Writer's Resource Box:
Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D., CBC, is a psychologist, executive coach,
and writer. She customizes newsletters for life and executive
coaches, providing both content and PDF and HTML ezines for busy
professionals. Patsi lives and works from Ajijic, Mexico where
she plays tennis daily, and enjoys other creative activities
with her husband Rob and two Maine Coon cats, Huey and Dewey.
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The article on this page is Copyright © 2004, Patsi Krakoff
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