Reality Check: Another Positive to Negative Ratio

Last time, I had suggested an experiment for you to try if you have a relationship that you’d like to improve. Essentially, the experiment starts by keeping track (in your mind) of how often you offer a “compliment” (encouragement, appreciation, or positive statement) compared to how often you offer some sort of criticism.
Sometimes, just keeping track leads to an improvement. And if it does turn out that you see that your interactions in the relationship are skewed toward the critical comments versus the appreciative, then it could be worth making an effort to change that. Deliberately increase the positive comments and hold off on some of the criticisms. See what happens.
This sort of experiment probably won’t do any harm, and if it improves the relationship even a tiny bit, it could be well worth the effort.
Does that sound like a manipulative approach to getting the improved relationship that you want? I’m always wary of manipulation—underhanded attempts to trick someone into doing what you want them to do.
However, I think that the practice of deliberately looking for things to appreciate and recognize is not manipulative at all. In fact, it may turn out to better reflect reality than a more critical approach. How so?
Some of us have a predilection to take good stuff for granted but feel the need to point out shortcomings. We think we’re “improving” others. But there may be lots of good stuff happening in the relationship. If we don’t make a habit of paying attention to it, we may not even see it.
Here’s another application of this positive to negative ratio idea; this one involves no one but you.
At the end of the day, some folks make a habit of looking back; perhaps even keeping a journal. You write down the notable events of the day; the good, the bad, the big, the small. It’s a record of your life. Considering how easy it is to forget things, it’s a pretty helpful habit to develop!
Take a look at your journal if you have one. Or just think back.
How many notable, positive things do you see? How many negative, unfortunate, unhappy things do you see?
If you’re feeling dissatisfied, and you see that your ratio shows many more unhappy things than happy things, you might perceive that to be the cause. Negative events probably do contribute to dissatisfaction.
However, if you want to make a change and you honestly don’t know how to start, here is one tiny suggestion to help you move in a different direction. It’s a very simple modification to the practice of keeping a journal.
Instead of writing down all the events, just write down the good ones.
That is, each day, deliberately look for positive things. I suggest looking for three good events each day, even if they seem tiny or insignificant.
If you are not used to doing this, or if you are really in a funk, it may be difficult to find even one good thing. It’s worth the effort to look.

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