John & Julie Gottman are a couple scientists who know a thing or two about relationships. My favorite book of theirs is titled Ten Lessons to Transform your Marriage. According to their research in the Seattle “Love Lab,” if your marriage is gonna make it you’ve got to get your ratio’s right. They’ve observed the long term success of a relationship depends far more on avoiding the negative than on seeking the positive. If you want your trusted relationships to last you’ve got to avoid the emotional equivilent of “stepping in it,” if you know what I mean. Psychologist Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach wreck’s a beautiful bowl of cherries, but a cherry does nothing for a bowl of cockroaches.
You see, we humans are wired to remember the bad way more than the good. We are wired to avoid loss. Gottman’s research shows that stable relationships gotta have positive interactions outnumber bad interactions by at least 5 to 1. My limited research with my client relationships and the relationships with their teams and significant others would align, but with a catch. You see, not all negative encounters sear the emotional brain the same. You can be a bowl of cheeries for freakin’ ever and one dumb move, decision, word, or swing and a miss on something small to you but large to significant someone – and you, my friend, are done. Been there. Done that.
So, leader, remember how high the bar for you – it’s even higher at home. The problem is you can’t measure the personal so you tend to underestimate your impact. You think you are one bowl of cherries together. She, on the other hand, can’t get her mind’s eye off the cockroach. Work on your ratio’s, friend. Understand the fragility of all relationships. Face your fears and bathe in truth. Your relationships require consistency, predictability, and avoiding the negative. You, most likely, have no idea but your relational bowl’s got 5 or 6 cockroaches. Don’t believe me. Ask your team. Not the team you’re paying, however, that team is paid to lie. Ask any teammate you’re not paying. Your team of peers, sons, daughters, nasty neighbors, significant others. Ask them. And, ask them to tell you more. Humbly remember it takes only a few words to repair. Swallow your pride and do the hard work of removing the cockroaches from your relational bowl. Own it. Clean it up and learn how to avoid what caused such a disgusting, negative interaction. Good.
You just may be on your way to a relational bowl of cherries…