The 4 to 1 Rule Will Change Your Life
July 2, 2011 I decided to adopt the 4 to 1 rule. I challenge you to do the same. Every negative comment requires four positive comments.
I know what some of you are thinking; that’s impossible.
Let me clarify. Make as many negative comments as you like. The challenge is following every negative with four positives.
My first efforts at the 4 to 1 rule were mediocre. I’m good for 1.5 positive statements before a “yeah but” emerges. The “yeah but” added four more positives and took me to six before finishing the first cycle. I have a ways to go but I’m going for it.
I’m finding ways to positively state negatives so I don’t have to come up with four positives. For example, “You did that wrong” becomes “I’m confident you can do better.”
Why is this important:
Words are rudders; they set and maintain the direction of life. Positive words take you where you want to go.
A real challenge:
Would you like a real challenge? Apply the 4 to 1 rule to your thoughts as well. Every negative thought is answered with four positive thoughts.
We need bumper stickers, tee shirts, bill boards, and tattoos.
Another clarification; negative is negative. Include true negative statements in the 4 to 1 rule. “That ass just cut me off, is a true negative statement that calls for four positives statements.
The simplest positive is an expression of gratitude. When you struggle to find a positive be thankful for something, anything. Don’t connect the positive with the negative; just say anything positive.
Two side benefits:
People enjoy positive people.
You force yourself, in addition, to focus more on things you want rather than things you don’t want. You become a “yes” person rather than a “no” person.
How are you building a positive orientation toward life?
Can you take the 4 to 1 challenge?
You’re on…it’s a great challenge. Thanks Dan. I try to love my life in positivity. Paying attention to the 4 to 1 rule will bring this even more into my consciousness.
Another tip: I try not to use the word ‘but’ i.e. You did a great job but…” I think of it an effort to ‘keep my but out of it.’ 🙂
Hope you have as much fun as I’m having with it. Sometimes with my friends I just hold up 4 fingers as a reminder.
Love the no “but” rule.
In teaching, a friend of mine and I have a rule for parent conferences that we call “The Sandwich”: when bringing a concern to a parent, start with something positive about their child, then state the concern honestly, and close with another positive comment.
I’m on a positivity binge so any suggests are useful… thanks
Instead of ‘you did a great job, but,’ I try to phrase it, ‘you did a great job on [insert specific project or action]! Now the next things we need to work on is figuring out how to make [the not so great thing] go as well.’
This tells them that you value what they did well, and that you’re working *together* to improve what’s not working.
Ok Susan… only ands allowed… NO Buts.
Great post, Dan. I agree with Susan’s comment. Saying “but” negates everything that came before it for the listener. Better to substitute a full stop. If you have something constructive to say make it a new thought. I really struggle with both 4:1 and “but elimination”. The payoff is worth the effort.
Hang in there Brian… I told some folks I’m a recovering Negaholic!
I’m having some fun with this and need lots of reminders… I think I’m going to have a 4 to 2 tee shirt made.. 🙂
It’s a revolution… 🙂
This came at a great time for me. Great post.
Best to you… thanks
I will try that, but not sure how I will count it thought or people may look at me hey you’rekinda sending too much flowers randomly 🙂
Good point. I’ve been doing the 4 to 1 rule around people that know me and know I’m doing it.
I can see that being randomly positive in a business meeting could be distracting. It sounds like anyone doing this would have to be more directed.
Good to see the continuity i your writings showing the value of positive thinking and the power of positive thoughts. One needs to cultivate a mind-set to work on the suggested process. It’s not easy. Realistic situations are much different and it calls for your positive outlook with practical solutions.
You have to be in the good company of like-minded people to get self-motivated. Also, move away from those who are pessimistic and can pose hurdles with their ‘ifs and buts’.
I suggest a matured approach with positive outlook.
Dear Dr. Asher,
I’ve been evaluating the power of negativity and notice it’s power to pull down and produce a negative attitude. I’m intentionally seeking out positive people.
I find I can’t and shouldn’t always avoid negative people. However, the intention of finding and enjoying positive people works powerfully.
thanks for your encouragement.
I love this idea of 4 to1 rule!!!
Cai Wei, thanks for being an encourager. Best, Dan.
In a world of words, this nicely reduces the consequences of words poorly spoken. It flies in the face of that old “First tell them the good, then tell them the problem their causing (but), then give them the possible solutions.”
Most people will not even catch the solution part. Because of how all of us are wired they will be still hanging on to the “but”. There is a place for honesty but it needs to be rooted in trust. And trust cannot be demanded. It must be earned.
Good words rooted in good thinking are a catalyst of good change. We need to be cautious in our world of words. “People will not remember what you say but they will remember how you made them feel.”
Nicely said… thx for the encouragement.
That’s a very nice technique, even though, thinking about it, I’d probably have some problems in thinking SO positive at times. I can clearly see the benefit, just I can’t be sure to be good at putting it into practice.
People who have difficulty with the process of 4 positives, might have an easier time if they think specific and tangible. General ‘good job!’s sound gratuitous and leave you no where to go. “nice job on how you presented the cost:benefit ratio” is specific, shows you paid attention, and leaves you with other specifics you can reference, like “and I especially appreciated that you didn’t inundate us with 17 bullet points”. That’s positive #2.
As I board the tangential train o’ thought today, two thoughts come to mind…
1) presentation, presentation, presentation–it may not be what you say, but how you say it. Even negative feedback can be presented in a lessons learned framework which morphs to a positive experience…we often under-estimate the power of each word. Present them in a measured way, less is more, value each and consider it’s impact as if presented to you.
2) unconditional positive regard–do your words have a foundation that have it? If not, why are you saying it, who’s agenda are you focusing on? If so, then you have created a positive out of negative.
Love Cinnie’s comments about leaving my buts out of the discussion. Can you imagine a single meeting that where we all keep our buts to ourselves! I think there is a cartoon in all of that…Dilbert pay attention.
Hi Dan. I just love this post. “Words are the rudders. They set and maintain the direction in life.” Another one for the quote book. Dan can I make a tee shirt saying “I’m a recovering Negaholic on the 4:1 plan.” and put DR underneath? Great challenge and count me in. Hey Doc where does one board the tangential train? 🙂 Happy Fourth y’all.
This is a great saying from his blog: “Words are the rudders. They set and maintain the direction in life”. now that’s not a bad saying but needs one improvement. change “Words” to “Actions”
Hmmmm… I feel like the freak. In most cases, it takes more than the 4:1 ratio for me to recover, although authenticity can make a difference. I use an experiential “How Full is Your Bucket” activity in leadership workshops to demonstrate this. When I have to courage to confront the nay-sayer or explain my reasoning, that helps…. AND if the other person offers what I interpret to be an acknowledgement of my point-of-view, I’m satisified.
“Words are rudders; they set and maintain the direction of life.” <— Loved the way this line puts across the importance of good ol' verbal communication.
I think it is necessary to maintain a positive outlook. I am sure that this 4:1 rule will result in positive changes for many people. I, for one, will definitely try to take on this challenge.
But there are times when one has to deal with people (or situations) that only respond to a clear-cut negative input. Putting a positive spin on things just doesn't work with some people because they see these positive inputs as a signal to slack off. In such situations, a slightly more negative outlook needs to be presented.
– Sindoora (http://www.beyondhorizons.in)
Great post, Dan. I’ve used a similar 3 to 1 ratio for years based on the work of Marcial Losada and I can tell you that it works for supervisors willing to use it. You’ve just gone me one better and in this case a four to one ratio would be better. I selected this post as one of the top five this week. It’s simple and helpful and it works.
I’m going to try this one, thanks again, Dan, a wonderful, practical way to get people like me thinking more positively 🙂
I don’t know that I actuallt follow a 4 to 1 rule, per se. I have been getting into the practice that when my mind runs off with old tapes, which could include old painful conversations or experiences with someone, I am getting better at stopping myself talk. I will say things to myself, such as, “It didn’t happen that way, Mary”, or “It was your expectation that didn’t happen the way you thought, that makes this not seem right”. I try to take personal responsiblility for my thoughts. I will list the things that I have that make my life good – “your still in your house, your bills are caught up, you have food, heat, cool, your kids are safe (and they lovve you, etc”. Progress, not perfection
Reading my post with all the typos generated a negative in my head because I didn’t proof read my comment. Therefore, my 4 positives are:
“I’m a piece of art in progress, God isn’t finished with me yet.”
“I had money to buy food today for my family.”
“Thank you, Lord, for putting me in touch with good people on the internet (that’s all of you).”
“I felt good going to Mass this morning.”
Can I start building up credits?
Very nice. I liked it. There is a thirukkural “Iniya Ulavaaga Innaadha kooral, kaniyiruppa kaai kavarndhattru” – meaning ” Why should we use negative words when there are so many positive/good words to express the same”.
I started reading your blog posts this morning and found myself nodding. Yep. Uh-huh. Got it. Wow. Yes.
Thanks for this post – nice simple technique, nothing complicated to remember, and pushes me to be in the moment.
A colleague, perceived by most as self-centered and demanding (but really just misunderstood) once told me, “Smile at everyone you encounter today – it will change your day.” At my most skeptical, I think of him saying that when I put it in practice. And it makes me smile.
Excellent advice. Thanks!
I appreciate your preaching about the benefits of 4:1, but I learned a different angle of it. I have been involved with many relationships – work and personal where the ratios was more like 1:4 or more. 4:1 is VERY IMPORTANT to relationship building personal relationships and their success, particularly in marriages. Practice this in your own personal relationships and see if it doesn’t help to improve them.
P.S. 4:1 isn’t really easy – it takes effort and practice until it becomes natural to you. Tip: when you see a person, try to observe their positive attributes and pass them along to them right away. “Oh, gee, Jesse, I really appreciate it how quickly you forgave me for my inappropriate comment. Thank you so much.” “Your enthusistic smile always makes my day, Mark!”
This practice will not only help you build to the 4:1, but will force you to start looking for the good in people instead of the negative, which by itself, will change your attitude towards them and improve your relationships with them.
THE REAL CHALLENGE: practice 4:1 with EVERYONE, especially the ones that you have difficult or tenuous relationships with. See if you can’t break down the walls by taking the higher road!!!!