Russell R. Rice, MFT/CEO

River Stones Residential Treatment Services Inc.

We all desire to understand what the key drivers are behind the motivation to succeed. What is the anatomy of motivation, the formula to success and healthy relationships, both business and personal? 

There is a large body of respected research behind this that leads us to conclude that THE POSITIVE TO NEGATIVE RATIO of our thoughts and words make a significant impact on whether our relationships and businesses are languishing or flourishing.

The first field of study that supports this theory is business, by an organizational consultant named Marcial Losada. He and his team of assistants went into businesses, recorded their meetings and coded every word and statement they said as positive, neutral or negative.

His findings showed businesses that revealed a 3:1 ratio or higher were FLOURISHING in the areas of: 
• profitability
• customer satisfaction
• evaluations by peers, superiors and subordinates
• positive reputation by all with whom they did business

…and we could also safely assume:
• job satisfaction
• employee retention
• positive work culture
• happier employees

Those below 3:1 were languishing. 3:1 was then determined to be the “tipping point” between languishing and flourishing.

Losada’s findings are impressive when it comes to business and management and has been quoted in many books, articles and publications . But wouldn’t it be great if there was a study of the tipping point in our own personal relationships? Turns out there is!

Worlds away and unconnected to Losada’s work, the most respected researcher on marital relationships, John Gottman, was doing similar research with couples. Dr. Gottman is undeniably the utmost authority on the factors that predict the success or failure of marriages, which is highly documented on his numerous books and articles. His studies have been conducted over decades in his Seattle based “marriage lab”, where couples agree to come and live in on-site apartments. These special apartments are equipped with cameras recording their every move while living “normally” as well as during being instructed to discuss hot topics, such as sex, money, parenting, etc. They are equipped with sensors to record physiological factors such as blood pressure, heart rate and Galvanic Skin Response (sweat) as they relate to each other throughout the day. Dr. Gottman has been able to successfully predict the success or failure of a marriage with an accuracy rate of over 90%. One of the significant factors in his prediction is THE RATIO OF POSITIVE TO NEGATIVE INTERACTIONS of the couple. 

Gottman’s research has concluded that THE TIPPING POINT FOR MARRIAGES IS 5:1, that is, less than 5:1 and the marriage is at risk of trouble and more likely to end in marital dissatisfaction and possibly divorce. Couples higher than 5:1 are likely to report a satisfying marriage and one that will last.

So in business the tipping point is 3:1 and in marriages it is 5:1. If that isn’t enough evidence for us to draw some reliable conclusions, another individual named David Schwartz conducted some research with depressed people and their ratio of positive to negative thoughts. We call that INTRApersonal relationship, or relationship with oneself. His research determined that depressed people had a lower than 1:1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts. After receiving traditional treatment for depression (one group receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and another using psychotropic medication), when the symptoms of depression had subsided, the PATIENTS HAD A 4:1 RATIO OF POSITIVE TO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. He concluded that “normal” or average was about 2:1 for the common person, but 4:1 was present in individuals that reported to be absent of any depressive tendencies. 

So whether in business, marriage or as an individual THE RATIO FOR A SUCCESS AND FLOURISHING SEEMS TO BE NORTH OF 3:1 TO 5:1. Being that most of us are, have been or will be in some type of intimate relationship,



But not so fast. Is there any significance with the ONE in the ratio of 5:1?

Turns out, a resounding YES! Most people can sniff out inauthenticity. Being purely positive has a dissonant ring to it that our body senses.  No one likes a fake Pollyanna.  The “one” is the grounding factor; the rudder or keel that keeps the boat upright and directed. Without this the boat would drift pointlessly on the ocean and tip over. However, if the boat has a rudder and keel (the “one”) with no sails or wind (positive), it is dead in the water. The point is not that negative is bad and to avoid it at all costs, it’s that THE BRILLIANCE LIES IN THE ACCURATE RATIO THAT RENDERS THE RESULTS FOR WHICH WE ARE SEARCHING.

What is your ratio? 
I challenge you to pay attention to it and consciously and intentionally seek a 3:1-5:1 ratio of positive to negative.  There is plenty of support to believe that this could lead to flourishing in many areas of your life.

Russell Rice, MFT

Russell is the Founder and CEO of River Stones Residential Treatment Services in Redlands, CA.  River Stones provides treatment to kids ages 10-17 who suffer from mental health and behavioral issues.  For more information visit riverstones.org.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png