# Reality Check: Ratios and Relationships

I’ll bet you were hoping for a math lesson today, so here you go: A ratio is essentially a pair of numbers that defines a relationship.
And we all know that the value and quality of our relationships plays a big role in how happy and satisfied we are in our lives, don’t we?
Granted, the “relationships” that we usually associate with ratios don’t tend to be people-focused relationships. They’re more about down-to-earth, tangible things, like figuring out how much oil to put in your chain saw gas or what the pitch of your roof needs to be.
However, if you want to try improving a personal relationship, there is a ratio that could be helpful to keep in mind. Let’s call it the “compliment to criticism” ratio.
Think about some of the relationships you have with people important to you. When you look at how often compliments occur and compare that to how often criticisms come up, is there a difference?
Now let’s think about relationships that are going really well versus others that are not working so well. How do those compare in terms of interactions? If criticisms occur far more frequently than compliments, do you think that affects the tone and quality of a relationship?
There are certainly reasons for why we don’t continuously compliment people. If we spread compliments only as a means to achieve benefits for ourselves, they will sound false. And people are pretty good at detecting those kinds of insincerities, aren’t they?
A compliment such as, “You look lovely today” is always nice to receive when sincerely given. However, I’m thinking more of compliments that are genuine expressions of appreciation; when we recognize someone for their actions, efforts or even their values. Even a sincere “thank you” is, in a way, complimentary.
I’m not sure why it is, but at least for some of us, it’s seems easier to find things to criticize than to compliment. Unless we build a habit of deliberately looking for things to compliment, they can easily slip by and go unnoticed.
Is there a specific ratio of positive to negative interactions that would provide the best result? Maybe. That’s apparently been studied. Even if there were a perfect ratio though, I rather expect that we individuals are going to respond somewhat differently.
Regardless, experimentation on a small scale is a wonderful way to learn. We can try something that could potentially be helpful. See how it works. If we get a good result, expand it. If not, try something else.
In that spirit of experimentation, here’s something to try. If you have an important relationship that you’d like to improve, pay attention to how many times you say something critical or negative. Also pay attention to the number of times you say something appreciative or encouraging. You’ll get a sense of comparison of those two types of interactions.
Remember that we only have control over our own actions. When we make a change, we can’t control how other people will react. They may respond positively, curiously, suspiciously, or even negatively.
Based on your experiment, you can assess whether it’s worth making a conscious effort to reduce the number of criticisms and increase the numbers of appreciations. It’s your relationship, so only you can decide.
Do you detect differences in the “compliment to criticism ratio” in any of your relationships?

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