Keep It Positive

The Gottman Institute put together some famous research that demonstrates that successful marriages have a so-called "magic ratio" of five positive interactions for every negative interaction. It makes perfect sense that people in successful relationships would have more positive interactions than negative ones. The Gottmans' research simply quantifies that.

If you're in a long-term romantic relationship, or you want to be, then keeping in mind the "magic ratio" is a good idea. Go out of your way to interact positively with your partner, and not only will you improve your odds of relationship success, you'll also give yourself an important emotional buffer of sorts for whatever inevitable negative interaction that may occur in the future.

Like so many other things to come out of relationship research, however, this one is a lesson that can be applied to all of your relationships, not just your marriage. If you want to be popular and well-regarded at work, make an effort to ensure that most of your interactions with your colleagues are positive ones. If you want to maintain strong friendships, make sure you're interacting positively with your friends. If you want to get along with your roommates, keep interactions mostly positive. It's just good human advice.

Recently I had to remove a couple of people from my life because their reactions to me were consistently negative. I know that deep down, both of them are good people, but it was becoming difficult to keep reminding myself of that fact when they spent so much time insulting me. Good people sometimes do bad things, and sometimes they do bad things persistently and for a long period of time. In a short while, I will have forgiven them. In the meantime, though, there is no reason to keep exposing myself to insults, irritants, and downers. I have to live my life, after all. I interact with more people over the course of a day than just these two. If I allowed them to bring me down so often, it would eventually spill over into my other relationships and ruin my life. I can't allow that.

It's a twin lesson to learn. On the one hand, it's important to keep negative influences at bay. On the other hand, it's important to remember that if you're the negative influence, people will begin to keep you at bay, too. As aforementioned, if you want to maintain good relationships, you have to manage your interactions ratio.

Remember, too, that negative interaction is inevitable in any long-term relationship of any kind. If you spend enough time with anyone, you will eventually have some kind of conflict. But these conflicts can be more easily managed and recovered from if you're generally accustomed to interacting well with one another.

Or, on the flip-side, if you've been going through some stuff lately, and you know you've been a pill, take some time to foster positive interactions with the people around you. Maybe you can't undo what you did, but you can send people a reminder that you're not a pill.

The "magic ratio" is such a powerful idea that it extends to everything. I've written before about how I don't use Twitter because I consider the social environment on that medium to be hostile and unpleasant. Instead, I use Instagram and follow a bunch of outdoorsmen, pro athletes, and models. When I open up Instagram, all I see are photos of beautiful, smiling people in beautiful landscapes. I see models hitting the famous landmarks of major European cities. I see mountaineers summiting gorgeous, remote mountains in pristine ranges. I see professional marathoners training in the African high plains, or in Mallorca, or in Flagstaff. I see local runners logging miles on some of my favorite local routes. No matter whose photo I see next, it's a consistently positive experience for me. Whatever I'm doing and whatever the world is like for me, out there, in athlete-celebrity-model world, there are beautiful people having lots of fun in beautiful places, and so will I be soon.

It's the perfect demonstration of how surrounding yourself with positivity can improve your life, but it's also a reminder to keep your own social media posts positive. Reconsider sharing that angry political meme, and instead share a photo of you and your family doing something fun. Think twice about posting yet another selfie and instead turn the camera around; show the world the beauty of wherever you happen to be standing at that moment. No matter who you are, there is someone out there who could see your post and think, "That looks like an interesting place!"

If you see a social media post about exercise, give that person some kudos! Let them know that you admire their work. And if you're in the gym or out on the trails and you happen to see someone trying to take an exercise selfie, offer to snap that photo for them instead. When you see someone wearing a cool hat, tell them how cool you think it is.

Spread the positivity around. It feeds on itself and helps make the lives around you a lot better. You'll feel better doing it! Let's keep this world a positive place to be.

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