Dr. John Gottman knows what it takes to make a relationship work. He’s done the research. Another psychologist describes Gottman’s research this way.

“Gottman videotapes married couples and systematically observes how they behave and talk with each other. He then follows them over time to see what happens in their relationship.”

Dr. Gottman can predict whether a couple will have a good or bad relationship a few years down the road. The key is how they communicate with each other. 

Master communicators gave at least five times more positive comments than negative comments. They were more likely to look for things to praise and to catch their partner doing things right. They were more likely to show humor and compassion. 

In contrast Disasters had as many negative as positive comments. Worse, the Disasters showed contempt, which is poisonous in a relationship. Criticizing your partner’s personality has a devastating effect on the relationship.

The 5:1 ratio is important. Negative comments leave a much more powerful emotional mark than positive ones. You need many positive comments to counter each negative comment.

The Masters seemed able to recognize how they felt and understand what they needed. They were more likely to admit their own flaws. Disasters operated more often from defensiveness with righteous indignation. They operated from victimhood with whining more often.

The Masters often knew their partners well enough to understand the other person’s hopes and dreams. They were more likely to ask open ended questions. Masters were courteous and polite. They let their partner finish a thought without interrupting.  They expressed admiration, appreciation, and affection. They were more likely to turn toward their mate and seek engagement.

Disasters did the opposite. They asked fewer open-ended questions. They made more assumptions about partner behavior. They interrupted their partner and were rude more often. Stonewalling or cutting off feedback hurt the relationships.

I want to be a Master, but too often, I act like a Disaster. Look, we all make mistakes. Everyone has conflict. Even wonderful marriages and great partnerships have unresolved conflicts. We can all improve our communication and thus our relationships. 

Would the people closest to you rate you as a Master? If not, what should you change?

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Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.