The key to building strong relationships doesn’t just involve saying positive and encouraging things to others and never mentioning your concerns or constructive criticisms. It is more about finding a balance between your encouragements and the difficult conversations that are essential to have from time to time.
So how much should we encourage others?
Not too little
Some leaders give far more criticisms than encouragements. They are quick to point out errors and shortcomings and do not naturally encourage others. There are many reasons for people developing a critical style, but at the end of the day the result is the same: team members are discouraged and feel devalued. I have worked in teams in which the team members have been disheartened by never receiving encouragement from their team leaders. I often wonder how long they will be able to stay in that team.
Not too much
Studies have shown that giving too much praise and acknowledgement can be counterproductive as the positive words lose their weight. An “everything is wonderful” approach fails to acknowledge specific good work and accepts under-performance. If “everything is wonderful” then nothing truly is.
What is just right? The Encouragement ratio
An interesting research project, carried out by John Gottman examined what would be a healthy ratio of positive to negative interactions in a marriage relationship. The research suggested that a healthy ratio would be 5 to 1, that is, 5 times more positive interactions than negative ones. Other studies have found that in the workplace a ratio of 3 to 1 will help the team relationships and productivity.
Of course the ratio will be affected by many things but it does give us all something to think about regarding our own encouragement style. The moral of the story is to do more encouraging than giving negative comments. This will strengthen relationships and build trust, which, in turn, will make giving negative feedback more effective.
If someone was to record all of your interactions with others at home and at work, what would be your encouragement to criticism ratio?
How can you work at developing a more consistent style of giving encouragements?
” Correction does much, but encouragement does more” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe