5 Ways to Insure Positive Interactions Out Way the Negative 

5 Ways to Insure Positive Interactions Out Way the Negative 

By Rob Wiltshire


Just recently, I had someone address me regarding a heart issue I was carrying.  What they had to say required me to think, pray & ultimately repent. 

To be honest, I didn’t like it, it wasn’t comfortable, but I knew it was done in love, and that they were right.  Why?  Because it was done out of relationship.

Good leaders, lead from Relationship.

John Gottman is a marriage and divorce researcher who claims to have a ratio for a healthy marriage. 

What he has found in his research is, that a healthy marriage will have a 5 to 1 positive and negative interactions ratio. [1]

Let me explain. 

A healthy relationship has for every 1 negative interaction, 5 positive ones. 

His research suggests the closer you get to 1 to 1 — one negative to one positive — the more likely divorce is imminent.


I understand he is talking about marriage, but I would like to suggest, this ratio works the same in leadership.

Good leadership shares more positive feelings and actions than negative and correcting ones.

Poor leadership has more negative feelings and actions than positive ones. 

Poor leadership criticizes and is constantly providing negative feedback.  They aren’t supportive, they don’t demonstrate appreciation, and behave in a way that shows they are uninterested in the person/people they are leading.


When negative interactions outweigh the positive ones, people will find it hard to believe their leader cares for them or has any place to speak into their lives.

This doesn’t mean leaders avoid difficult meetings and conversations.  Rather good leaders have spent time building a repour with the person they are leading to be able to have them.



5 Ways to Insure Positive Interactions Out Way the Negative 


#1 Discover their love language

No you are not trying to romance them, you are wanting to value them. 

Say for instance, one person on your team feels valued through gifts.  And all you do is encourage them with words.  Sure the words will be appreciated, but not nearly as much as they would be if you gave them a simple gift.

Make it a habit to discover the love languages of the people on your team.


#2 Write them a card/text/email

It doesn’t have to be long and wordy.  All it needs to do is let them know you are thinking of them and value them.

Something like,

“Hey insert blank, wanted to encourage you with how good of a job you are doing.  Love having you on the team.”


It’s not rocket science by any stretch.  In a world filled with constant busyness, people appreciate someone taking the time to touch base with them.


#3 Find something to encourage them in, and leave out the constructive criticism.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  Constructive criticism is just that, constructive.  But if every meeting is met with constructive criticism, it will feel for the person receiving it like “plain old criticism.”

As leaders we want to grow and develop the people we are leading, and that involves constructive criticism.  But not in every interaction, no matter how much you want to.


Sometimes you will see more growth if you take two to three interactions to lay out before them the constructive criticism.

People take on board constructive criticism when they feel valued by the person giving it.

Make sure you have more interactions without constructive criticism than you do with it.

#4 Ask them how their week/day has been

Life can easily feel like no one-cares. 

Now that is never true.  I would argue that most leaders honestly care about the people they are leading.  But just because you do care, doesn’t mean the people you are leading feel you care.

It is easy to get bogged down on what you are wanting to achieve and forget to ask; “Hey how are you doing?”

Here’s something to try.  Ask some of the people you are leading,

How’s life outside of church?

How is work going?

Is there anything you are struggling with at the moment?

Is there anything you’d like me to be praying for you for?


Sometimes you will find that if you ask this question you will discover something that is going on in their world that explains the issues you are having with them. 

#5 Ask them how YOU can practically help THEM

I get you have things to do, but in honesty, nothing is more important than serving.  And in specific, serving the people we are leading. 

This is the example Jesus gave us.  God, the God of creation, came to earth in human form, not to be served, but to serve.

How can you serve the people you are leading?

Do they need help putting a meeting together?

Do they need help writing something?

Do they need help dealing with a problem?

Do they need practical help in their life?

To be honest, most of the time people won’t have an answer for you, but they’ll appreciate that you’ve asked. 



As leaders we can’t avoid negative interactions with people. 

We will have to correct them, give negative feedback, challenge them, tell people they are wrong and out of line.  And we should never shy away from doing this.  But at the same time, we as leaders have responsibility to insure that these difficult interactions don’t cause the people we are leading to run from us.

If we follow the 5 to 1 rule.  Chances are high that we can have very prickly interactions with people without them running away from us.

So as you lead, I implore you to do your best to have positive interactions outweigh the negative ones.






[1] https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/cfs/cfs-744-w.pdf