The Ratio for Success in Life & Business

This article reveals the scientifically discovered ratio of positivity to negativity you need to succeed in Life and Business.

In recent years, the combined research of John Gottman, Marcial Losada, and Barbara Fredrickson has come to reveal something very interesting about an identifiable predictor of success in families, social groups, and professional teams.

John Gottman is known for having conducted over 40 years of breakthrough research in the areas of marriage and parenting. The Psychotherapy Networker listed Dr. Gottman as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the last quarter century. His findings allowed him to predict the success of a relationship with over 90% accuracy.

As the former director of Center for Advanced Research (CFAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Marcial Losada conducted studies on the interaction dynamics and productivity of business teams that led him to realize a significant predictor of success within teams.

Barbara Fredrickson is currently Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory (PEP Lab). Her research led her to identify a key factor for predicting the mental and social health of college students.

What their combined research findings have in common is the presence of an average ratio of positivity to negativity that serves as the predictor for success.

As a rule of thumb, there must be 3 positive exchanges for every 1 negative exchange between people for there to be a healthy system.

An ideal ratio for thriving growth is 5 to 1.

What does this mean?

It means that, for every negative thought or feeling you have about someone or something, it should be offset with three positive thoughts/feelings in order to ensure the health and success of all relationships.


Be aware of the ratio between your positive thoughts/feelings and your negative thoughts/feelings about anything in your day.

As a practical experiment, you could split a document into two columns and write down all your positive thoughts about something on one side and all your negative thoughts about it on the other side.

Then, do the math. What ratio do you come up with?

If you don’t have at least a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative, you will be experiencing excessive friction in that area and its success may likely be compromised.

You might also consider taking an overall snapshot of the last 24 hours to see your positivity-negativity ratio as a person. If it’s not 3:1 in favour of the positive, you might consider making some changes as an experiment. I invite you to make the adjustment to a 3:1 ratio consistently for 30 days and note the difference.


If you want your marriage, your relationships, your work-project teams to be more successful, make sure that you have at least a 3 to 1 ratio (preferably 5 :1) of positive to negative exchanges and stay consistently conscious of it. Make adjustments as necessary and see if you can’t incorporate this to be part of your culture at work (and at home).


If you’d like to learn more about some of this research, pick up Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity (click here).


Like this article? Please ‘like’ and ‘share it’. You never know who you might help.


© 2014 Trent Janisch –


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