The Positivity Ratio – five fast facts

213_3456x2304_300dpi_all-free-download.com1. What is the Positivity Ratio?

The positivity ratio* is a measure of the positive experiences and interactions within any group of people against the number of negative ones. You can measure it on just you or within any interpersonal relationship. Research over the past 30 or so years has found that all healthy relationships, families and even workplaces tend to have a higher number of good interactions than average. Unhappy and unhealthy contexts do not. The measure they use ranges from 1-11.

2. So what's the magic number?

The general consensus is that for every negative comment or experience there should be between 3-6 positive ones. Apparently some 80% of us exist with a lower number than is ideal, making our environments potentially toxic. Mind you, too many compliments is not the goal – we risk sounding spineless or out of touch if all we ever focus on is saying nice things. The positivity ratio works best when inputs are healthily balanced. 

3. Why do we need so many good ones for every negative one?

Unfortunately we respond more strongly to negative comments. Imagine you're catching up with a friend. When you arrive they greet you with, "Hey, you're looking great!" You feel good, give them a smile and get on with ordering a coffee. You've likely forgotten about their compliment within a few minutes. Now, rewind and imagine as you turn up they say, "OMG, where did you get that fashion disaster?" If it doesn't start a fight on the spot, you're probably still stewing over it as you eat your cake – which you only ordered because of their put-down comment. You may still be touchy about it in the morning! Get the concept? All negative interactions have this effect on us, though sometimes we avoid acknowledging it.

4. How does the Positivity Ratio affect me?

– Everyone would rather have good things said and done to them than bad. Be deliberate! Keep an eye out for your positivity ratio contribution in different contexts and consider how you can improve it. Don't assume people know you're appreciating them or the things they're doing.

– Some people you'll know are hyper-sensitive and claim they should only ever be told nice things. Those people need to learn to deal with reality, but that doesn't excuse the rest of us. If you ever want to get work done or have something changed, make sure you're saying enough positive things before you attempt a 'conversation' about the bad. Avoid fake cliches and compliments that won't be valued. Spend a few days reminding yourself what you appreciate about the person/team/family before speaking to them. Better still, work at doing this consistently in the first place!

– If you find yourself in a toxic environment where only negativity is being thrown at you, there are two choices. One is to see if you upping the positivity improves the situation. The other is to get out. 

5. Improve your positivity ratio here:


"It's good to see you"

"You did that really well"

"I appreciate your time"

"You're a good friend"

"Thanks for making the effort"


Want to check your own postivity ratio? Follow this link for one option


The concept came under attack because of dodgy mathmatics in one study, where it was claimed there was a very specific number of positive to negative experiences you needed to feel good. However, the positivity ratio principle remains accurate – studies by other researchers have returned enough similar findings to validate the concept.