Greg Nathan's Franchise Relations Tip #21: The Magic Ratio for Relationship Success

Greg Nathan”s Tip #21

Greg”s Tips are back!

Again this year, as we prepare for the 2011 Profitable Partnerships Boot Camps held in Dallas, September 23rd and 24th and in Denver, October 4th and 5th, we”ll be posting valuable franchise tips from franchise relationships expert, Greg Nathan.

Please check our site frequently for Greg”s latest tip!

This week Greg addresses how using positive language builds positive relationships within your franchise organizations.

The Magic Ratio for Relationship Success

When was the last time you slept on a Li-Lo air mattress? For me it was last week when a few of the family stayed at our parents flat in Melbourne. Next morning I was letting out the air when my mother commented, “It”s certainly easier to deflate than pump up.” This innocent observation nicely summed up some research I”d been reading about the magic ratio for successful relationships.

Reactions to positive and negative comments

If you make a supportive or positive remark to someone it is hard to know how they will react. Some people will shrug indifferently while others will bloom with pride.

However people respond in a more predictable way to critical remarks, or “feedback” as we like to call it. They get defensive and a ping pong match of negative comments can start.

“You did a lousy job on that.”
“Well you gave me a lousy briefing.”
“Oh so you expect to be spoon fed as usual.”

And so on.

Negative comments tend to deflate how people feel about themselves and can suck the positive feeling from our relationships.

Of course we can”t go through life just making positive remarks all the time. We all need to give and receive feedback. So what to do? One answer can be found in research by psychologists who have studied relationship success in couples and business groups.

Research from the Love Lab

In the 1990s John Gottman and his colleagues studied the frequency of positive and negative comments made in conversations between couples in their Love Lab at the University of Washington. They were able to figure out that the ratio of positive to negative comments in successful relationships is five to one.

In other words it takes five comments of agreement or support to balance out the deflation that can occur from one negative or

critical remark.

Other research has found similar ratios apply to business relationships. Business teams with low morale and poor performance tend to be characterised by more negative comments to every positive comment. Business units with higher profitability, customer service and productivity had positive to negative conversion ratios of 4 to 1 or more. In the research, negative comments include disapproval, cynicism and sarcasm. Positive comments include encouragement, support and appreciation.

Lessons in language

This holds some sobering lessons for our personal and work relationships.

Listen to the language of your management team when you talk about or talk to your franchisees. If you are a franchisee, listen to how you talk about or talk to your franchisor. Does your positive to negative ratio need some work?

In closing, let me put two provisos around this research. Some negative feedback is fine providing it is given with respect, focuses on the unwanted behaviour and does not diminish the person. Also positive comments need to be real. Comments made in an disingenuous or patronising manner will have the opposite effect.

Until next time.

Greg Nathan
Managing Director
Franchise Relationships Institute

Greg will be talking more about effective communication at our upcoming Profitable Partnerships Boot Camps – Dallas September 23 & 24, 2011 and Denver October 4 & 5, 2011.  Registration is now open. Please join us!

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