Building Others Up: The 5:1 Ratio

By Dr. Gary Sweeten

The ratio of speaking in an encouraging versus discouraging way is a great indicator of family emotional health. If the ratio in your home is 5:1, that encourages you to promote healthy, functioning relationships for generations. Unfortunately, a four to one ratio or lower adds dysfunction in the family. Words need to be wholesome, positive, warm, and caring. While correction and discipline are important, gossip, criticism, and putting each other down can be emotionally damaging.

But, cheer up! If the ratio in your home is below 5:1, a few intentional modifications can help you be a blessing to the people you love.

Considering what patterns you use when interacting with others can be key to making sure you are building others up. If a friend shared that he recently received a promotion and big raise, which way would you respond:

  1. Actively Building Up: Fantastic. I am really happy for you. Tell me what happened and how they let you know about it.
  2. Passively Building Up: That’s nice.
  3. Actively Destructive: Man alive. That means you will have to work twice as hard and be away from home all the time.
  4. Passively Destructive: Hey, do you want a cup of coffee?

 What if a child shared that they had made a new friend on the bus?

  1. Actively Building Up: That’s great. It’s so fun to have a new friend. Tell me all about it.
  2. Passively Building Up: That’s nice.
  3. Actively Destructive: I don’t know. You already have so many friends. It might be hard to make time for another one.
  4. Passively Destructive: Really? Do you have any homework?

Taking time to really listen and engaging in topics that others share shows that you value your relationship with the person.  Analyze some of your recent interactions using our tracking tool.

Table Time Sharing:

The following exercise is designed help families develop the core conditions for positive relationships – Genuiness, Respect, Empathy and Warmth (GREW). Consider going through this exercise around the dinner table two – three times a week, keeping in mind to be actively building up in your responses:

Share something good that happened to another person. When that happened what did you think and feel? Teaches how to tune into others and empathize with them.

Share something good that happened to you.
If someone shares a bad report, ask questions like how did that make you feel, what can we do to help, what did you learn from it.
Teaches how to understand and process feelings and how to be open to emotional sup- port from others.

Did you do anything good for anyone today? Did you do anything to help anyone else? A kind act or word?
Teaches to be other centered and giving and encourages positive interactions with peers.



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