Do Your Words Encourage or Deflate?

by Jennifer Miller on April 10, 2012

in Communication, Leadership

mat equation on chalkboardI love “people equations”—any formula (scientific or otherwise) that can provide a framework that helps us interact more effectively with clients, peers, suppliers, leaders, and team members. I recently encountered an article that quoted positive-psychology expert Martin Seligman as saying that he uses something called the “Losada Ratio” when talking with people he cares about. 


 Never heard of the Losada Ratio? Me either, so I checked it out.

According to Dr. Seligman, the ratio (named after team dynamics consultant Marcial Losada) should be 5:1. In other words, in deeply committed relationships (spouse, child, best friend) you should make five positive statements for every one negative statement.

According to other research the ratio is closer to 3:1 in the workplace.

Think about this for a moment.

What if, for the next hour of your life, you made a conscious effort to direct your energy into affirming, positive statements? Not a fake, meaningless, “Hey, great job!”, but a sincere, well-thought out acknowledgement. “Sarah, I’d like to compliment you on how you handled that situation with the Purchasing Department update. I could see that tensions were starting to boil over and you stayed calm. It was really helpful when you turned to Jamie and asked for a recap of the budget numbers. That seemed to refocus the group.”

Go through the last 10 emails you sent. What’s your Losada Ratio in your written word? Do your words inspire people to take heart or deflate?

Encouraging words uplift. Judging words kill motivation.

What will you do today to improve your ratio of encouragement?


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer Miller April 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm


We *all* need to be reminded to stay positive and it’s helpful to have a ratio like this one to guide our actions.

Have a great day!

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