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“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, sounds familiar?

We can all agree the above mentioned is a nice attitude, but is it productive? Usually not so much. We need to keep in mind that the real purpose of feedback is to help people improve, not to make them feel better. Of course, I’m not saying that you should be rude – be nice, always -, but your goal is to deliver a clear and specific assessment.

On top of that, also effective feedback needs balance, just like having a salad for dinner to then treat yourself to a little ice-cream.


That balance is key in life comes as no surprise. What you might not know is that it could also improve your team performance as well as save your marriage. Kill two birds with one stone.


High performing teams


According to a study conducted by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada, what differentiates high and low performing teams the most is the ratio of positive feedback (for instance, “Great job on that presentation, I think that X point was very relevant because…”) to constructive-negative feedback (i.e. “I noticed you haven’t considered a crucial X aspect in your presentation… I believe you should include it, though”).

Let’s look at some numbers, shall we?


While the average ratio of the low performing teams was 0.36 to 1, meaning nearly three negative comments for every positive one, the one of the higher performing ones was 5.6 to 1, i.e. almost six positive comments for every negative one.


Does this mean that the least “negative” comments you get, the better you are?


Not exactly. It’s been shown (i.e. HBR) that negative feedbacks actually help you further improve professionally. Nevertheless, you should consider that you need to deliver quite a few positive feedbacks if you want your constructive feedback to be effective


Long lasting relationships


Enough with work now, let’s get to the juicy part!

Bad news: you cannot really avoid conflicts with your wife (or husband). What you can do, though, is to try to remain married for as long as possible. How?


Constructive feedback actually plays an important role here, too.

According to a studyfrom Dr. John Gottman, one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the last decadesand co-founder of the Gottman Institute, stable marriages have a 5:1 ratio of positivity to negativity during conflicts. For unstable and deteriorating marriages, on the other hand, the ratio is 0.8 positive comment to 1 negative one.

Hence, don’t be afraid to fight with your partner, it’s healthy for several reasons, but while you do it, don’t forget to tell him/her how great of a cook they are.


By Matilde Rebori and Morten Melby



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