The Power of a Compliment

You need to have more positive interactions than negative ones to maintain a happy, stable marriage. That makes sense, right?

But what you might not know is how many more positive interactions you need.

It’s a lot more. And it turns out that there actually is a magic ratio. Relationship expert John Gottman discovered we need five positive interactions for each negative one.

When your marriage is in a rough patch, you may find it hard to rack up those five positive interactions for each time you engage in criticism. Complaints. Nagging. Or outright fighting.

That’s where compliments come in. They’re quick and easy, so you don’t have to work hard to get in several.

So, I want to challenge you to embrace the compliment. It can be a powerful positive interaction for many, many reasons.

A compliment will improve your spouse’s mood.

There are few things more positive than a compliment. It can show appreciation, respect, admiration, approval, gratitude, and trust.

And you can see how it impacts the recipient. They might smile. Puff up with pride. They most definitely will feel noticed.

And that can do wonders to improve someone’s short-term outlook.

Giving a compliment will improve your mood, too.

When you do something nice for someone, it makes you feel good, too. You brought that smile to their face. Their positive reaction can’t help but to rub off on you.

And when both of you are in a more positive mindset, it can help improve communication between you – even the more difficult conversations.

It can change your spouse’s behavior for the better.

People like to feel appreciated. We are driven by it.

Imagine this: a compliment is as powerful a social reward as receiving money. Whether you are receiving cash or a compliment, it activates the exact same part of the brain.

That’s why calling out your spouse’s successes will do more to motivate them to change their behavior than nagging or criticism. Your spouse will want to work hard to receive that compliment again.

You’ll be forced seek out and notice the positive.

It is all too easy to notice what our spouse is do wrong than what they do right.

After all, it’s frustrating when your spouse forgets to take out the trash – and the evidence of the oversight is right there in front of you – all day long.

But if your spouse does the dishes every night, the reminder of that contribution is gone as soon as the dishes are back in the cupboard!

However, when you are making an effort to compliment your spouse regularly, you will also see more of the positive they contribute.

But make sure the compliment is sincere.

This is so important. Some compliments are really a back-handed insult (“Thanks for finally helping with the dishes!”). Others are simply hollow (“You did a good job.”) If you want to make a positive impact, your compliment needs to be sincere.

Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. Search for something else to compliment.
  2. Be specific. “Thanks for helping with the dishes. It made my evening less hectic after a stressful day.”
  3. Consider a follow-up question. “You look so fit today. Have you been working out more?” “This dish is always good, but it is particularly tasty today. Did you try something different?” It can start a conversation about something positive.
  4. Make sure your body language matches your words. Make eye contact. Smile. Take your time.
  5. Don’t be over-the-top. If you are too effusive with your praise, it can come off as insincere or even make the other person embarrassed.

I’d like to challenge you to sincerely compliment your spouse at least once each and every day. You may be surprised by the impact it has on your relationship.

Rooting for you!

Sara Freed

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