John & Julie Gottman are a couple scientists who know a thing or two about relationships. According to their research in the Seattle “Love Lab,” if your relationship 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.
The Gottman’s research shows that stable relationships have positive interactions outnumber bad interactions by at least 5 to 1. My limited research with clients 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, or flippant/misplaced word, can plop a cockroach right where you don’t want it. Recently a friend described an encounter with his leader. They’ve been getting along swimmingly and were working through a seemingly small conflict. They didn’t see eye to eye on an issue. The leader said, “You know where the door is,” and she might as well have thrown four cockroaches in their relational bowl.
So, leader, remember how high the bar is for you. 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…