Did you know there was a scientific “naggy ratio”?
Does the very thought scare you a bit?
It’s true. Scientists studying gratitude have created an “appreciation to naggy ratio.” it divides the total number of positive expressions (support, encouragement and appreciation) made during a typical interaction between people by the number of negative expressions (disapproval, sarcasm, and cynicism).
Here are some of the scary/cool findings: When there were 11% more negative expressions than positive expressions, marriages plummeted toward divorce or languishment. Those marriages that lasted and were found satisfying were those with a positivity ratio above 5.1 (five positive expressions to each negative).
Building regular practices of gratitude into your marriage is an easy but effective way of raising your positivity ratio.
I suggest that this is true of parent/child, friend, and coworker relationships as well. Not that you are headed toward divorcing your coworker. (Sometimes you wish it was that easy.) But harmony is far more likely if the naggy ratio is way lower than it probably is.
Not that I personally know anything about a naggy ratio. Not. At. All.
I know I don’t utter enough words of affirmation to the people n my life. Part of the reason is that I don’t need those words so much myself. My love language is not words—that one’s pretty low, in fact. Mine is acts of service. Unfortunately, this is a problem. Because if people (ie my spouse and children) are not doing the things I want them to, I don’t feel loved. Leading to me nagging. Leading to them not feeling loved. And it’s a vicious cycle.
Crazy time. Send in the clowns. (Wait. Don’t. That’s a real thing now. Talk about crazy.)
So I have to be intentional.
Speaking gratitude is a super easy way to feel gratitude. And yet not so easy. Because we just don’t want to speak it sometimes. What we have to realize is that when we speak it, whether we feel it or not, we will come to feel it.
I don’t mean speak thanks in a fake way. Do not passively aggressively “thank” your spouse for taking out the garbage when it’s sitting right there in front of you both. This is not gratitude. This is bad. Bad. Naggy.
But we can speak thanks even when we do not feel it by finding something we can be thankful for. Anything. Speaking brings feeling. We don’t wait for people to deserve our words. We just offer them freely because we are created to be thankful beings. When we act on that created purpose, we reinforce it.
Words have power.
Putting them out there in the air (or into cyberspace) creates an atmosphere of thanks that will get into your lungs. I promise.
Do you want more gratitude and peace? Try a few changes.
- Take a few minutes at breakfast or dinner. Speak words of thanks to your family members.
- Email a note of gratitude to someone.
- Randomly text your kid a sentence of thanks for something.
- Send a card of thanks to a friend or a boss.
- Tell your spouse something you’re grateful for before he or she goes to work. (If you do it first thing, there hasn’t been time to build up any issues that day.) Put a note in his or her lunch.
- Tell your kids as you put them to bed what you appreciate in them.
- Tell that cashier how grateful you are for her service. Ditto for the waitress, valet, receptionist, doctor, basically anyone whose job it is to serve. Tell her something specific you liked. (I told our cashier at Target yesterday she was a fantastic bagger. She was. She beamed at the recognition of her efforts.)
- Tell a stranger you like her shoes, or her car. Tell her she has mad parenting skills as she navigates three kids and two carts and four meltdowns. She will need that. Mean it.
You get the idea. Give thanks through words. It will come back to you in peace. I guarantee it.