A simple way to take your relationships up a notch (or five)

Skip the Small Talk Take Your Relationship Up a Notch

Five to one: According to one of the most prominent social scientists in the field of romantic relationships, John Gottman, that’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions in stable relationships. Couples were significantly less likely to get a divorce when they had about five positive interactions for every negative interaction they had.

How does that ratio compare with your own relationships, romantic and otherwise? More specifically, how often do you put conscious effort into fostering positive interactions? How often do you tell people when you’re enjoying something they’re doing, or when they’ve made you happy, or when you’re feeling appreciative of them? It’s easy to save up all your gratitude and positive feedback for their next birthday card or for Thanksgiving, but you have so many more opportunities than that to get closer to someone, and all it takes is sharing your positive feelings about them in real time.

If you’re considering a particular relationship in your life and it has you thinking, “But that’s just not the kind of relationship we have,” or, “We just don’t talk about that sort of stuff,” or, “That’d be awkward,” you might want to consider what you think the worst reaction is that you might receive, and decide if that risk feels worth the potential benefit of feeling closer to this person and possibly building a more stable relationship with them. If you’re still unsure if you want to share your positive feelings with someone, it might be worthwhile to start off sharing your positive feelings with someone you perceive as more accepting and nonjudgmental, and/or someone you don’t feel particularly close to yet so that you can get some practice while the stakes feel lower for you.

If you want to give it a try, you might want to wait for a moment when you’re feeling something positive as a result of something the other person did-- positive feedback is often most meaningful when it’s offered in the moment you actually feel it. Can’t think of what you might say when the time comes? Here are some options:

  • I love how you always ___________
  • I appreciate that you ___________

  • Thanks for _________

  • You’re making me so happy right now!

  • You make me so happy!

  • Our friendship/relationship makes me really happy!

  • I really like our friendship/relationship!

  • I really like when you _________

  • I feel warm and fuzzy hearing that!

  • You’re so __________

If this person isn’t used to you offering positive feedback like that, there’s a chance that they respond with surprise, by making a joke, or by deflecting it in some other way. If you don’t get the response you’re looking for on your first try with a particular person, you might want to try it again with the same person at a different time. Some relationships require a few tries before it feels more natural for both parties, and often, those attempts are worth it.

So the next time you’re feeling happy or grateful because of someone else, try telling them. As always, let us know how it goes if you do give it a try, or if you have any other tricks for bumping up your relationship ratio.