In the beginning of a relationship, communication is effortless. However, as time goes on, some couples struggle to communicate effectively, while others continue to find communication relatively easy. Dr. John Gottman sought to understand the difference between these couples. He discovered that happy couples engage in 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction. Check out the two steps necessary to achieve the magic ratio:
Step 1: Shift your focus. Have you ever purchased something, and then, all of a sudden, it seems to appear everywhere? If so, you know how powerful it can be to shift your focus. For most of us, it’s easy to notice when our partner lets us down and pretty hard to remember when they support us. However, if we continuously ask ourselves “what’s right with my partner?” instead of “what’s wrong with my partner?”, we begin to see our spouse in a new light. S/he becomes multi-dimensional – a person with strengths and weaknesses.
Step 2: Acknowledge positive behavior. Once you start to notice how your partner supports you and your relationship, it’s time to share this with them. Positive reinforcement is the idea that when a favorable outcome occurs after a particular behavior, that particular behavior will be strengthened. When your partner notices that you’re feeling overwhelmed and offers to help, make a point to look them in the eye and tell them you appreciate their efforts. By acknowledging their efforts, you increase the chance that they will continue that specific behavior.
I’m sure some of you might be thinking, “why should I thank my spouse for doing what s/he’s supposed to do?” This thought is understandable, especially if you feel taken for granted in your relationship. However, in order for your partner to understand your relationship concerns without becoming defensive, they have to trust that you see them as a good person. Shifting your focus and acknowledging their positive behavior may not immediately improve your relationship, but over time, it will create a solid foundation of trust, respect, and good will for healthy communication to thrive.
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