Discover the 5:1 Ratio of Kindness

One of my main interests and a reason to enter the field of Psychology was my desire to understand how to live in harmony with one another. How to live in relationships, families, communities and countries where people are tolerant, compassionate and more empathic to one another.

A lot of my energy is invested in early intervention through the work I do with parents and the relationship they have with their children. I believe this is crucial in bringing up individuals who feel worthy and who will be able to connect, be fair and empathic with the world around them. 

However, in the work I do with couples and families in distress, experience has shown me that toxic and unhelpful patterns of behaviour which can become destructive of the system can also be changed.

Through decades of research in his work with couples, John Gottman found out that an important element that differentiates couples who succeed in their marriage vs. those who don’t is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions towards each other. Let me be clear, it is not the lack of conflict or negative emotions but the outbalancing of positive interactions/emotions over negative ones.

For each negative interaction we have with our partner, we should have another five to outweigh it, this is what he called the 5:1 ratio.  When couples become aware of this and start shifting the balance, significant changes begin to occur.  What if we were to apply this rule to the world around us? For every negative thought or behaviour we put out into the world we put out 5 positive ones.

These do not need to be grand acts of kindness: a smile, helping someone cross the street, preparing tea not just for yourself but for someone else as well, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, saying thank you, allowing someone to go on the bus before you… Take charge of your positive output and kindness and “go happen” in the world around you today!

- Veronica Pretelt
Veronica is a Registered Accredited Psychotherapist with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and practices at Anamaya


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