Positivity and the Magic Ratio

We’ve got the golden mean and the 80/20 rule.  Now, thanks to Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, we have the magic positivity ratio of 3:1: if you have at least three positives – thoughts, phrases or actions – for every one negative, your life will change for the better.

Medical, psychological, marriage and business research all seem to be converging on a similar prediction – that high performance teams, partnerships and individuals all have in common a three to one ratio of positives to negatives.

According to researcher and consultant Dr Marcial Losada, assessing team positivity means counting the statements made by team members on three dimensions: positive vs negative; self-focused vs other-focused; and based on inquiry (asking questions) vs based on advocacy (presenting / defending a position).

Dr Losada calculated that high performing teams had positivity ratios of up to 6:1 and the minimum positive level was 3:1.  Teams and individuals with a ratio less than 3:1 tended to get stuck in ruts and unhelpful discussions.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Didier Marlier

    Dear Sharon,
    In a recent exchange of mails, Marcial Losada also shared this not yet published interesting research. Following him, human being have a 2.666 times stronger tendency to go, instinctively towards Negative than Positive behaviours. Whatever the numbers, this tendency suggest that it does take a conscious and resilient effort if we are to create the “flourishing environment” Losada refers to. In his lifelong observation of executive teams at work, he was capable of predicting the business results of a team’s strategy on the basis of the quality environement (flourishing or not) they had created to hold the strategic dialogue.
    The second consequence is that “neutrality” does not really exist and people who sit on the fence automatically are part of the Negative crowd as they probably unconsciously drift to the negative and fail to display three to five times more P than N. Thanks for the quality of your blog, enjoy the Summer “DownUnder”. Didier Marlier

  2. Sharon

    Thanks Didier – I will look forward to reading Dr Losada’s new research. 2.6 is a very big number. I wonder whether this is human nature or generationally related. I have been interested in this field since I read Martin Seligman’s work from the days when he studied “learned helplessness” and some of his work studied the impact of the world wars and depression years. So I will have to ask Dr Losada whether he thinks this number is reflective of the generation in power or whether it is reflective of more widespread human nature.
    PS Yes, summer is here – and Martin Seligman is enjoying it as he comes visiting to speak at the Mind and its Potential seminar tomorrow.

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