We share feelings much more than we share information

by eskokilpi

There is one universally agreed-upon feature of a good life: enriching relationships. Researchers claim that we take stock of the people in our lives and the “flourishing” we get through being with them. The strategy people normally follow, mostly unconsciously though, is to try to spend more time with the people we resonate with, and less time with the people we don’t resonate with that well. Beyond this obvious solution, an even better possibility would be to create, and re-create, our relationships to make them more mutually nourishing. Emotional contagion is a fact of life. It means that our moods and even physical health are created in interaction with other people. We tilt either to the positive or tilt to the negative as a result of our relations, and the further relations, the people that we relate with have. It is a chain of contagion that goes far beyond the horizon.

We could, in theory, make an inventory that evaluates the “richness” of our relationships. My dear friend Marcial Losada has made breakthrough findings on interaction. The thought provoking model he has created, which is based on decades of research, has three variables and three parameters. The variables are inquiry-advocacy, positivity-negativity, and other-self or external-internal orientation. The three parameters are connectivity, which is the critical control parameter, negativity bias and resistance to change.

According to Marcial, people are most successful when they are well connected, and are able to balance external vs. internal orientation as well as inquiry and advocacy. The relationship should keep a positivity/negativity ratio within the “Losada Zone”, meaning greater than or equal to about 3:1 and not more than about 11:1.

John Gottman on the other hand, has found that in a happy marriage, a couple experience five times more positivity than negativity in interaction. If we take the work of Losada and Gottman seriously, as we should, it would mean that there is a golden mean for any ongoing relationship in our lives, both private and corporate. If the positivity/negativity ratio is below 3:1 it would mean that there is a need for urgent mending. In situations like this, the way we intuitively behave is to end the relationship. But perhaps we should not. Do we know how WE affect the lives of the people close to us? How do WE impact on others? Do we help others to flourish? If not, should they leave us?

The critical success factor of Enterprise 2.0, is to understand that we share feelings much more than we share information.

The unfortunate reality in enterprises is that there is a negativity bias in most in-house communication. Communication is often about solving problems and giving negative feed-back. Organizations are also optimized for repetition. There is an in built systemic resistance to changing communication patterns. It is very safe to assume to start with, that the positivity/negativity ratio is in the red. Thus, the most important management process is enriching the interaction.


Thank you @pekkahimanen and @ Esa Saarinen for meaningful discussions